The 11th Floor

A Perpsective Overlooking Jerusalem, Israeli Life, and Talmud Torah

Monday, November 20, 2006


“I've been to a marvellous party! We didn't start dinner ‘till ten.” -Noel Coward

In a Jewish state, you might think that the Jewish wedding has been perfected. A reasonable theory- you would be right, of course. And yet wrong. Horribly, terribly, wrong. Let’s look at the prevailing stereotypes about the Israeli wedding.

True or False: Israelis are so impatient that they don’t even sit down at the ceremony. “Israeli wedding ceremonies don’t usually have chairs…they wouldn’t know what do with them.”
Answer: True. For a crowd of 300, there were about 40 chairs, which served the purpose of making the crowd spread out. Everyone stood anyway, excluding a few pregnant people. Nobody stood up for the bride- they were already standing. At the end of the ceremony, the crowd rushed the chuppah like the victory celebration of a soccer tournament.

True or False: Wedding invitations in Israel are now sent by e-mail.
Answer: True. Asking if they would like “cream chiffon paper with gloss crimson ink and a double silk envelope” will make an Israeli couple ask you if you are some weird kind of Christian.

True or False: The bridal couple will often pick strange, bizarre music with which to walk down the aisle.
Answer: True. Kinda-sorta. Falsey. Oh, I don’t know. We heard Muppet music, something that must have been porky pig, and a few other weird things, but the moment the bride showed up, it was “Erev Shel Shoshanim.”

True or False: Israeli weddings never take place in a synagogue.
Answer: True. Israeli Synagogues are more modest affairs than their North American or UK counterparts, so there isn’t room for them anyway. Masada is a more likely venue for an Israeli wedding. than Congregation Moreshet Avraham. Dedicated wedding venues are very popular these days, like the one we went to. Thier motto: "Itzrubal- It's true love." No, that makes no sense to me either.

True or False: Israeli Weddings are incredibly informal.
Answer: True. At this wedding, the only person wearing a tie was a black-hat American. Plenty of people were wearing jeans. There were no suits. There were also no sandals, but after all, it is November, and it is a chilly (for Israelis) 14° Celsius outside. The groom wore a jacket- until after the chuppah, when the jacket sublimated and his shirt was of course, untucked. The mothers of the bride and groom were the only ones besides the bride wearing formal dresses. At least a few guys were wearing t-shirts. I don’t think there’s ever been a tuxedo at an Israeli wedding. In the 1950’s, Israelis were too poor. In the 2000’s, wearing a tux will provoke the following reaction: “James Bond! Boom-boom, shoot-shoot, keyn? Yallah, Bye.”

True or False: The influence of Americans on Israel is now being felt in the weddings.
Answer: False. Israeli weddings are more Euro than ever. People dance the electric slide to trance/techno music.

True or False: People dance with Sparklers.
Answer: True. I’m Sorry.

True or False: Israelis all speak Hebrew and know the bible, so secular weddings in Israel have more Jewish content than secular weddings in Canada or the U.S.
Answer: False. All the halachic aspects of this wedding were done out of sight, excluding the chuppah, the total time of which took no more than 3 minutes and 58 seconds. In fact, the wedding we went to was quite an anomaly. The bride had gone to a TALI high school, which is an innovation of the Masorti movement. Unlike secular schools that no longer teach Tanach (Hebrew Bible) or religious schools that teach there is only one way to practice Judaism, the TALI schools provide Jewish literacy without compulsion.

Usually, secular weddings have no religious content. Considering how hot the dance floor got (the mechitza came down after a good round of "chassid dances"- check the photo), it was amazing there was a ceremony at all. Israeli society is very polarized, and most Israelis are led to believe its all or nothing; you are either religious or secular. The bride was courageous for demanding the Chuppah, Ketubah, etc, alongside the DJ’s playing Tom Jones’s “Sex Bomb.” Cleary, more of the guests were more comfortable with the latter than the former. Not me though- I think that song is an abomination and the DJ should be flogged with last week's Ha'aretz newspapers until he cries.

True or False: Israelis go all-out for weddings in terms of bread and circuses.
Answer: True- when your parents don’t have to shell out 10 grand for a Bat Mitzvah, they have a lot more than that to throw at your wedding. Life in Israel is often laced with tragedy, and there is a live for the moment attitude that can be found across the spectrum. Hence parents that may get a second mortgage to pay for the wedding.

True or False: Israeli weddings start late and can go on into the dawn, where the staff brings guests breakfast.
Answer: True, although my friend Y swears that at his wedding, he will kick us all out long before it gets that late. While that’s reassuring, I’m almost disappointed…

True or False: Israeli weddings have incredible food.
Answer. True, oh dear sweet God almighty is this true.

  • Step one: Arrive. Eat Appetizers.
  • Step two: Greet Bride and Groom. Eat other appetizers
  • Step three: Get a drink from the bar. Eat some other appetizers. Repeat.
  • Step four: Pause for the ceremony. Do not eat.
  • Step five: Go to table. Eat .
  • Step six: Dance. Eat. Dance. Eat formal appetizer. Sit. Feel Queasy. Dance. Eat the main course.
  • Step seven: Dance. Fight the crowd so you can eat dessert.
  • Step eight: Go home. Eat nothing for 36 hours.

And yes, all the food is Kosher (to those who complain about kosher food as lacking in any way, bite me. )
Let’s review the food at this wedding…
Upon entering there was a salad station. And a carving station where whole roasts were being consumed. And an open bar. And a stir fry noodle station. And a kebab/skewer station. All this was before we even got to the table.

At the table, there were 8 kinds of drinks, 9 salads and small plates (fried cauliflower, roasted eggplant, cabbage salad,) rolls, baba-ganouj, and of course, hummous. After that came a choice of formal appetizer- puff pastry stuffed with mushrooms and liver OR a thick tortilla stuffed with ground beef and topped off with a Mexican-ish tomato sauce. Then came the main course- your choice of steak or Cornish hen, which was accompanied by large bowls of rice, potato wedges, green beans with sun-dried tomatoes, a dinner salad, eggplant and other sides. Along side this was served large flatbreads with kefta (ground meat kabobs) and vegetables.

For those who remained conscious, a desert buffet awaited, which was consumed by a swarm that ate faster than the Locusts ate the produce of Egypt- although now I know what that plague must have looked like, minus all the buzzing.

All wonderfully strange and just plane strange things aside, it was an amazing time.
The bride was lovely- she never looked better. The groom was a champion among good hosts, and quite a dancer. The parents were kind and warm to all. To all the bridal party, especially M and Y, our prayers for long healthy years and much joy.

And to the catering staff- I think I’m in love. Call me?


Anonymous Marsha said...

I'm drooling over the food and laughing at the descriptions. You guys are missed back in the States!

4:54 PM  

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