How do I sum up the last week? I’m not sure I can, save to say that it’s been simply perfect. I’m not one for superlatives, but I can’t think how else to describe my trip home to Israel for my sister Mira’s wedding.
A part of me is loath to describe the week in a blow-by-blow account, mainly because of the happy glow I’m jealously guarding (or is that simply jetlag?). But here goes anyway.
I flew to Israel via Atlanta, and found myself to be the only person on the packed to the gills 777 with nobody in the seat next to them. This was a Delta flight from Atlanta to Tel Aviv and interestingly, half the crew were Israeli. It’s was a little odd to be on a flight with an Israeli crew that isn’t El Al, but the result was that I felt instantly relaxed and at home. Even the dinner menu was in Hebrew.
Landing in Ben Gurion airport I was one of the first off the plane and heading towards passport control I found myself in the throng of people. There must have been a good 4 or 5 planes landing simultaneously, and the thought of standing in line with Israeli’s finest was mercifully not an issue. Upon returning from Israel in July I took the time to apply for a card that allows you to bypass Passport Control by merely swiping it through a machine and having it read your handprint. The short of it is that I was off the plane and out the doors of the airport in less than 10 minutes, given that I didn’t check any bags.
I am a stickler for being picked up from the airport. Every time I fly to Israel I have the same conversation with my parents, confirming that they will be on time to pick me up. There is nothing I like less than coming out of the arrivals door smiling with anticipation, only to find that nobody is there to pick me up (and it’s happened more times than I care to mention). I always wonder if the other people waiting for their loved ones wonder who the schmuck is with the silly smile whose family clearly doesn’t love him enough to pick him up on time.
And so, after many a reminder that I would be out the doors quickly I exit to find that, alas, nobody is there to greet me. I knew my father was coming to the airport from a meeting in Tel Aviv, and it’s typical of him to arrive late. However, I was so happy to simply be there, that this turn of events just made me feel more at home. Think of it as tradition.
Just as I was about to ask someone to borrow their cell phone I notice my brother Aaron and cousin Ilan standing not far off, grinning from ear to ear. They had been there all along, hiding from sight and enjoying watching me scan the crowd with growing disappointment. Serves me right for making such a fuss in the first place, and ultimately, I couldn’t ask for a better homecoming.
Back at the house I had barely a half hour before family started showing up for dinner. Looking over my pictures from the trip I see that they fall into 2 categories. The first involves everyone sitting around some such table consuming vast quantities of food and drink. The other is the wedding, a great excuse for all of us to get together and sit around consuming vast quantities of food and drink.
I think I’ve mentioned before how there is nothing I like more than waking up my first morning in Israel and looking out the glass panes of the balcony door at the greenery beyond. This is a simple pleasure that I long for and crave when I’m in LA, and which I relish and milk when I’m in Israel. It’s not much to ask to wake up in your own bed, right? Maybe it is.
It turned out that one of the guests at the wedding was Arul, my parent’s business associate from India. He had arrived a couple of days prior and had snagged my coveted den. Subsequently, I was condemned to share a room with my brother, something I have not done since we first moved to Israel in 1982. I might grumble and moan, fearing the overwhelming stench of Aaron’s feet at the end of the day. However, this simply felt like another opportunity to feel perfectly at home. My sister should feel proud that her wedding should elicit such tolerance in me, as I can assure you Aaron’s foot smell is something that could be used as biological warfare.
So there I was, home at last, and surrounded by my entire family for the first time in years. Simply perfect.
The following morning I awoke before 6, as expected due to my jetlag. The birds were up and chattering away, but other than that the Moshav was silent and cool, the early morning light bathing everything in a magical haze. I took the opportunity to take a stroll up the street in front of the house, accompanied by Junior, one of our 4 dogs. I knew that this would be my only quiet moment before the week truly got underway. And I was right.
That same morning we all headed out to Idan’s extended family’s Moshav near Petach Tikva for Idan’s Aliya La’Torah. This involves the groom going to the synagogue and reading from the Torah. The service was conducted by Idan’s brother Inbar, with my father reading from the Torah too. I didn’t have to do much, merely snapping a bunch of photos of the event.
It’s safe to say that I have not been to Shul (another word for synagogue) since my cousin Tess’s Bat-Mitzvah about 8 years ago. I have forgotten almost everything about a morning service but was readily steered in the right direction (or more specifically the right page in the prayer book) by Idan’s family. I also put on Tefillin (phylacteries) for the first time since my Bar-Mitzvah. I must say that even though I am not a religious person, there is something immensely reassuring about tradition. It’s stable and knowable.
After the Aliyah La’Torah we went back to Idan’s family’s house for a quick bite and then home to freshen up for the next meal. We had reserved a massive table at a restaurant in Ra’anana (the town I grew up in) to accommodate everyone from both families, plus a couple of close friends that might as well be family. This was an opportunity for the extended families to get to know each other, although I don’t know how anyone could keep track of all the names. I think that at this evening more than any else I got a real sense of how the two families were merging. Idan’s family is in many ways a mirror version of ours, so this amalgamation of personalities was simple and easy.
And the next day was the wedding.