Ceremonies and Celebrations

There was a time when an invitation to a wedding or even a party would arrive in the post, artistically embellished, in an envelope with a stamp, plus a smaller card on which to confirm one’s participation in the event, and information about the time, date and place.

Call me old-fashioned, but I find it difficult to get used to being invited to a life-changing event such as a relative’s wedding through a message on my phone. And that’s only the beginning. In order to confirm participation one has to be technically astute, click on the appropriate response and make sure one doesn’t inadvertently delete the actual invitation. Said invitation included a link to the Waze app that would take us to the venue of the wedding, but not its actual address. That required some detective work on our part, but in this day and age of Googling anything and everything that’s no big deal.

In Israel today weddings have assumed some characteristics that might seem odd to previous generations. Secular young Israelis tend to look askance at the time-honoured formula employed for Jewish weddings. They also resent the imposition of religious rule by the rabbinate, which holds sway over all aspects of births, deaths and marriages in Israel. After all, what is the marriage contract as set out in the Ketuba but a business transaction between the father of the bride and the bridegroom, with the bride having little if anything to say in the deal? Even in non-Jewish weddings, without a Ketuba, the father of the bride ‘gives her away’ to the bridegroom. It’s more symbolic and less pecuniary, but the principle is the same. It all harks back to ancient, out-dated concepts of the rights of men and women.

At the event I attended the officiating ‘rabbi’ (who wore a kippa, was dressed in modern clothes and did not have a beard) conducted matters in a pragmatic manner, inserting comments and asides at given points, encouraging cheers and applause from the guests, using egalitarian everyday language rather than the formulaic ancient tongue of the religious ceremony. In accordance with tradition, the ritual seven blessings were pronounced by various men, who in this case were almost all relatives of the bridegroom, though I have attended even more radical weddings where some blessings were pronounced by female friends of the couple.

Of course, no wedding celebration can proceed without food, music and dancing, and that was certainly the case here. The grub was tempting and plentiful and the music was loud and energetic, enabling the young people to gyrate and the older ones to sit and eat (and everyone to drink). During the reception prior to the ceremony a unique touch was provided by a young woman wearing an elegant dress who mingled with the guests as she played the saxophone, accompanying the DJ’s music on the loudspeakers.

A final, delightful touch. As we were leaving we passed a table laden with small pots containing various herbs, and we were encouraged by the person in charge to take one. And so, as we drove home, the sweet smell of our basil plant scented the air in the car, leaving us with a lovely memory of a memorable event.


About the Author
I was born and brought up in England. I am a graduate of the LSE and the Hebrew University. I have lived in Israel since 1964. I am an experienced translator, editor and writer.