Sunday, July 13, 2003

michal's wedding

Michal, a girl who works in my lab got married to Moran a couple of days back. This was the first time I was attending a typical Israeli wedding, as the previous one turned out to be religious. This post is about that experience; it’s actually the post that started this blog. I enquired around and found out that Israeli weddings can be of three types: secular, religious and orthodox. A good index is the separation factor. If men and women are separate only during the dancing- its religious; if they are separate throughout the ceremony -its orthodox; and if they are not separated at all- its secular.
A secular wedding apparently consists of the following steps: a small ceremony which involves the bride and groom reading something from the bible; an exchanging of the marriage contract; some blessings and prayers by the Rabbi, some songs sung by the audience along with the Rabbi, and the breaking of a glass cup, to symbolize the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.
So this was my first secular wedding here in Israel, and though they tell me it was more or less typical, it was very nice for several reasons. First, the location. The wedding was held in the ancient Nabatean city of Avdat, among the ruins. If my memory serves me right, the actual ceremony was in the roman villa. The roman built on the same site as the Nabateans. Avdat was one of the last halts for the Nabateans on the spice route to Europe, the next two being Elusa and Gaza. The wedding took place exactly at sunset, cutting a bit too close, because the Rabbi was late and since the Jewish day begins at sunset, the wedding would have been on another day leading to untold bureaucratic complications. It was very casual. Michal was wearing an Indianish costume, and later it turned out that she did buy it in India. And Moran was in white completely. The ceremony itself was on the balcony in the Roman villa, and it was very quick. It was really nice and a bit surreal to see people wander out of the desert in to the ceremony, or to see the ancient city of Avdat peopled again, if only for a little while.
After the ceremony, we all headed down to the restaurant and guide center that just next to the main road. They had arranged tables and there was a small place for dancing, and the music had already begun. It was only then I noticed that the entire wedding had a Nabatean theme, of sorts. Large beautiful terracotta amphoras stood amidst the tables, filled with dried flowers. The path was marked by hanging oil lamps that swayed in the breeze. The tables were decorated with miniature amphora and pieces of mosaic stones. I was seated along with the lab people. The food was remarkable in that everything was vegetarian. For the first time in Israel, I did not have to ask people if the dish was safe to eat (I'm vegetarian). The food was excellent, and I did not even feel the need to put salt on everything, as is usual over here. The dancing started as soon as people started arriving to the tables, and since we stayed till the end I can say that it did not stop till around half past one. And then a brief dark journey back to Sede Boqer, with the desert receding into the night. Photos will be posted when I get them.