The end of the wedding story, finally.
The appetizers were placed precisely as the first guests arrived. I noticed immediately a difference between the Ashkenazi and the Yemeni women--the Ashkenazi women wear wigs (sheitals) to cover their hair. Almost all of the Yemeni women wore turbans (small ones) or head scarves.
Why head scarves? Orthodox Judaism requires that married women cover their hair. It is acceptable to cover one's hair either with a scarf, hat or wig.
Since I'm not married, so I don't have to bother. I'm still trying to attract a man so I get to show off my hair. Susan didn't cover her hair either--no one cared.
The front of the hall with the appetizers was divided with the partitions. All the good (fried) food was on the men's side--and so were the plates and flatware. The women did not hesitate to go to the men's side and load up their plates with kifte and other fried yummies.
By 7:30pm, Dad and Yehuda (my nephew, the groom) had not returned. My brother, B2, was getting a little frantic. My sister-in-law, Tikvah, was occupied guarding Dad's rental car because it was parked in a forbidden zone. The parking attendant insisted they would have to tow it.
At 7:40, the groom and his grandfather (Dad) finally showed up. Where were they? I found out from Dad while the men were off praying. Oddly, the Ashkenazi and the Yemin men did not pray together.
Yehuda needed coffee. They found a little café behind a gas station. The staff figured out, or Yehuda told them, that they were serving a groom. They brought him some cake and ice cream and stuck a sparkler in it. Yehuda wanted to order a pizza and that's where Dad drew the line. He said, "We have to GO." And dragged him back to the hall.
And we had a bridegroom.
The ceremony itself was unintelligible--all in Hebrew--even though some of it was miced. A videographer was camped directly in front of the couple making it impossible to see anything. Dad did get a few good pictures, though. This part of the event was the only time men and women were mixed together --all straining to catch a glimpse of the couple under the hupa.
I heard the glass break--the groom steps on a glass as part of the ceremony--but there were still seven blessings to go.
The ceremony wrapped up in about thirty minutes and we headed back to the hall.
The dancing commenced. There was food on the tables but few people were sitting.
The bride was the center of most of the circle dances. She would dance with a friend, who would fling her rather violently about, then a circle would form around them and the women would dance holding hands. It got hot and sweaty quickly.
The bride smiled for the cameras and her friends but she also looked like she was about to pass out a few times. They would sit her down in a chair so she could catch her breath and someone would bring her water. She probably did not get to eat. Later, I realized she was wearing a corset under her dress. Yikes.
After the first round of dancing, more food was brought out and Susan and I took a moment to sit and eat. A couple of nieces at a time joined us but they just took a few bites of food and a few sips of soda before they went back to dancing.
There was a goodly amount of food. And bottles of soda and water on the tables. Actually, the bottles, plastic, of drinks on the table is how we have been served drinks in all of the Orthodox households we've visited. Some of the food included "salads": hummus, roasted eggplant, cucumber and tomato. There was also bread. Later, there was a chicken, beef or chicken main course and dessert. All dishes were kept full.
I felt bad for Dad, all alone on the men's side. I doubt B2 had much time for him. And everyone was speaking Hebrew. Dad doesn't know a word. He's a very smart man, but he does not have a facility for languages. He's tried and tried for years to learn several different foreign languages and he's never been successful.
I stood on the edge of the dances and observed. I didn't know the footwork, but that wasn't really a problem. The Ashkenazi women were doing a modified version of the grapevine step, which is what you use to dance to the hora. The hora is a Jewish wedding dance--and it was pretty much what the women (and men) were dancing. However, I never heard "Hava Nagila" played, which is the only song at a Reform Jewish wedding to which a circle dance is done (at least in my experience).
After I had a bite to eat, I ventured back to the dance floor. I was watching the dancing (again) and a young woman who I'd met earlier that day at Tikvah's shop (she works there) took my hand and insisted I dance. She would find me when ever I wasn't dancing and include me. What a sweet thing.
My nieces did a line dance just for the bride--cute and odd. The whole group did a line dance later on and I joined in. I impressed the oldest niece with my ability to pick up the steps.
I was able to fake the steps for some of the circle dances, but the Yemeni women were doing footwork that was rather complicated. It reminded me of the circle dances I saw at the Moroccan restaurant I went to for New Year's Eve. The other Ashkenazi women were also studying the footwork for the Yemeni dance and most didn't join in. The Yemeni women did not offer to teach, nor did most Ashkenazi women ask to learn. They could have, since they had the common language of Hebrew. But most of the Yemenis did not speak English so I had a hard time communicating with them. Attempts were made, by them, but mostly all we could do was smile and nod. Ah well.
Actually, this is also an issue with the bride. She does not speak English (or only a few words--she seems to understand a little). So, when I've been asked, "What is she like?" it's hard to answer. Still, I have a good impression of her. She is a good sport. She understands her role in all of the events surrounding the wedding. She is fashionable. She has a great laugh and a lovely smile. She is beautiful. I don't know that we would have the deepest conversations even if she spoke English, but I think we would get along just fine.
[Jump to the present: last night. Susan and I drove Yehuda and Avital (the new wife), home after a party. (Dad stayed home; we all stayed home tonight. Did I mention that there have been dinner parties every night this week in honor of the new couple?) As soon as we got away from the house, Avital pulled of her sheital (wig) that she's been wearing since the day after the wedding. She revealed a full head of long, gorgeous deep brown hair. She said, in Hebrew, that it was itchy. I was shocked. I have never seen a religious woman do something like that. I've known Tikvah (my sister-in-law) for over 20 years and I have NEVER seen her without her head covered. Not once. I was delighted. When I dorpped them off, Avital actually walked from the car to their building without the sheital on. You have no idea how unconventional it was. I think this is a good match because Yehuda is not down with all the crazy rules.]
Back to the wedding....
The dance area abutted the partitions, but there was no mixed dancing at all. Avital, the bride, did get to offically cross the barrier at least once. However, the women would peek through the cracks in the "wall" to see what the men were up to. Sometimes, women would stand on chairs and look over the partitions. I did this later in the evening and Tikvah joined me, briefly. I caught Yehuda's eye and he waved at me. You should have seen the way the men were dancing--just as vigorously as the women. They were also moving rather sensuously and holding hands. Too sexy for me, I tell ya.
Other notable dance moves--the groom tossed on a blanket and hoisted into the air atop a piece of plywood. The bride was also held aloft on a piece of plywood and she tossed little bags of candy to the crowd. I was too busy taking her picture so I wasn't able to catch any candy.
Speaking of pictures, I have tons but can't upload them to blogger from Israel. My flicker account is all full for the month too. I'll get the rest up when I get home, but you can take a look at a few here in the meantime.
Everything wrapped up--dancing and food--by about midnight. The buses--did I mention the buses?--were gone by then. Each side of the family rented a bus to bring their friends and neighbors to the wedding hall. Many people drove themselves, all of the family did, but since many folks don't have cars, the buses are a standard practice. The expected attendance was 400 people; 200 from each side--at least that many people were there. The location of the hall, just outside of Tel Aviv was a compromise--about halfway between the bride's and groom's home towns (hers is Haifa, his is, as you know, Jerusalem). The couple is living in Jerusalem, at least for the time being, just a couple of miles from my family.
After the guests left, some family remained. We sat on the men's side, at separate tables, while the men sang and prayed. When they finally finished, more offical pictures were taken.
The bride and groom went back to their new apartment in a taxi.
Cars were loaded with presents and food.
Fighting over the checks and cash commenced.
Around 2am, I got in a car with Dad, Susan and my two youngest nieces to drive back to Jerusalem. We got lost on the way back, missing the turnoff to Jerusalem, passing Tel Aviv. We finally found our way back home and dropped the girls off after 3am. The rest of the family was still not home! We got back and fell into bed.
And the parties began....more later!
Grateful for: the end of this damn story.
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