Friday, August 14, 2009

Bittersweet Wedding Bliss on Kibbutz

People who do not know me as well as I wished they did tend to be surprised when they see me at a wedding. Then again, even my parents asked me if I was drunk at my brother's wedding--apparently, people are simply not supposed to have that amount of energy and excitement at such a formal occasion!

Formality was not such a concern the evening of Thursday August 13 when the entire kibbutz of Tirat Zvi came out for a wedding of two of their children. Although my garin only arrived on the kibbutz a week ago, we were all invited. The couple were married outside in the summer heat, in the center of the community they have called home for their entire lives. Very sweet. And about too get even sweeter.

After the groom smashed the glass and the cries of Mazal Tov filled the air, the newly married couple were led to a waiting van whose back doors had been tied open with streamers and colorful wedding signs. As confetti and soap bubbles filled the air, the couple waved to the crowd as the van slowly made its way to a nearby home. The scene was adorable. But it instantly became unforgettable when a friend pointed to the beaten up van's Palestinian decor and explained that the vehicle was regularly used by the groom's special unit, Duvdevan, in their undercover raids against Palestinian militants in the West Bank. Duvdevan literally means cherry and there was certainly a bittersweet irony in seeing the same van carry the groom into marriage that has doubtless carried him and his men into danger so often in the past.

The rest of the wedding passed in a blur of exhilirating dancing and some of the best desserts I have had since arriving in Israel. There is something about dancing at weddings, a magic in the divinely ordained joy of the moment, that rarely fails to set me off. This wedding was no different. So while I never spoke a word to the groom or his dozen army and kibbutz buddies all night, I'd like to think I communicated my joy in the simcha by keeping my feet moving and my hands waving on the dance floor. The dancing had the added bonus of reminding me of what I am capable of, that with the right concentration I can summon the necessary energy to go at full tilt far past the point of exhaustion. A good trick for the army, if I can only learn to turn it on at will!

As fine as the wedding was, the lack of familiar faces was a stark reminder that I have a ways to go before I really become a part of the kibbutz community. The wedding also reminded me of a warning from a member of the 2007 garin. "Missing the weddings of friends in the States just sucks," Hudi told me shortly after he had earned a rare reprieve from his elite unit in order to attend the wedding on kibbutz. "It is one of the toughest parts of serving so far away from so many close friends."

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