Wednesday, October 18, 2006
DRESSED TO THE SIXES
So I'll tell you about an Israeli wedding....or this particular Israeli wedding anyway. For one of the few times I've attended a wedding here in Israel it was held close to Jerusalem. (For some reason Jerusalemites are big on holding weddings far from Jerusalem. The further away the better seems to be the conventional wisdom.) This was only about a half hour's drive from my house - practically around the corner. The huppa (wedding ceremony), so I was told, was to take place at exactly 7:30 because a lot of people had come in a hired bus from far up north - it's about time other people had to travel for hours to get to a wedding instead of me - and had to leave by 10:30 to get home at a reasonable time. Now - no Israeli wedding ever takes place at exactly any time. Never early - always much later. The kabalat panim (reception) was to start at 6:30, so I split the difference and arrived at 7:00. Seemed reasonable to me. Luckily, I was with people who were fun because 7:30 came and went, 8:00 o'clock came and went - we finally ambled towards the chuppa (wedding canopy) about 8:15 - and finally, after much waiting around the ceremony was performed. OK - so now they are married and we can eat - by this time I am ready to eat the tablecloths. Didn't have to eat the tablecoths - Israelis love to eat - so there was good food - and plenty of it.
And what were people wearing? Anything. Everything. Remember in my last blog that I said I was going to "get dressed to the nines"? Well - I actually don't know the genesis of that expression - but I got "dressed to the sixes" - so to speak. I didn't want to be overdressed - which is a great understatement. The father of the groom wore casual slacks and a white pull-over shirt - at his other son's wedding he wore a white T-shirt - so this was really dressed up. The groom's mother wore a beautiful dress and a gorgeous necklace. The groom's uncle wore a suit and tie - another uncle wore a white T-shirt - an aunt wore jeans - the guests wore everything from quite dressy to going-on-a-picnic casual. And that's the way people dress at weddings here - and I've attended weddings which were small (that means only 200 guests) and relatively modest to a wedding at which were the President of Israel (Ezer Weizman) and every general of the Army and Air Force and which had 750 guests in attendance. The bride? She wore white. And so did the groom - white slacks and a white untucked-in shirt and a white crocheted kippa (yarmulke). No tie.
The bride and her family are rather religious - the groom and his family not. So in order to accommodate everyone most of the guests sat together - that means men and women at the same tables - and the bride and her girlfriends sat behind a mehitza (screen) - so that they couldn't see the men and the men couldn't see them. The bride danced with her friends and the groom danced with his.
The atmosphere was fantastic - and after we had eaten and were just sitting around and talking we heard music - do you know the sort of mournful music you hear in New Orleans or at a southern Italian funeral - brasses and drums? That kind of music. So down the side of the hall, walking very slowly, came a brass band - horns and trumpets and trombones and clarinets and drums - and when they got to the front of the hall they really let loose - and it sounded like Dixieland-come-to-Israel. One of the sisters of the groom has a boyfriend who has this band - which, incidentally, just got back from playing gigs in Europe - so don't for a moment think this was any kind of amateurish performance - and they played their hearts out until almost midnight - and we were all jumping and dancing and jiving to the music. It was like being at the best rock concert - only better. And I had no idea that the groom and his brothers and sisters were such fabulous dancers - actually, they're an incredibly talented family all around - which is why I'm so lucky to have them for my friends.
And the people who had to leave at 10:30 to get back to Nahariya? Only when the band stopped playing did we notice that people had left - miskenim (poor things) - they missed the best part.