Papyrus Speaks Louder Than UNESCO | commentary

Jets Are Circling: War Trauma

Here I sit in my safe little corner of America.

But jets are circling overhead.


If I were back in Israel it would mean only one thing:  war.

Israel is a very tiny country, surrounded by hostile nations on all sides.

Our greatest love, as the Jewish People, is our Holy City, Jerusalem. 

Three times a day, in our regular prayers, and after eating bread, we pray:

“U’vanay Yerushalayim, ir ha’kodesh, bi’m-hayrah u’vyameynu, ahmein.”

And (please, God,) rebuild Jerusalem (and the Holy Temple that is the definition of Jerusalem,) the Holy City, quickly and in our days, amen.”

In times of threat, the Israel Air Force jets circle Jerusalem endlessly, protecting her from harm.  Jews, Christians, Muslims, all protected by the IAF.

No other air traffic flies over Jerusalem airspace.  If it does, it gets promptly escorted out by IAF jets.  Sometimes it’s an innocent mistake, but even a private plane owner (of whom there are very few) will find himself in big trouble for inadvertently flying over the Holy City.

The jets have left now but I’m still shaking.

I think of those unfortunate people who live in countries where jets overhead mean bombs and death.

During the 2009 war with Gaza, which is such a complicated situation that I can’t begin explaining it here, my windows were in just the right position to hear the mortars and missiles coming out of Gaza, and the bombs dropped on the tunnels and munitions dumps roaring, columns of smoke belching into the air as the cached explosives went up.

And I knew, each time, that innocent lives were being torn apart, killed, burned, limbs lost….And the jets circling, always circling, and the mortars going “whump…whump…”

One day I was sitting learning Torah in my yeshiva (house of Jewish learning, study hall), when the air raid siren went off.  We students did what we were trained to do: head for the nearest miklat, bomb shelter.

But when we got to the door of our yeshiva, we ran into a group of IDF soldiers.

“Where are you going?” They asked us.

“To the miklat!  What are you doing here?”

“We came to sit and learn.  That’s the best bomb shelter!”

So we all sat down to learn together.

But still, when the jets circle over overhead, my heart pounds, my mouth gets dry…

Third Light From The Left


This is a Yerushalmi Hanukiyyah.

That is, it’s an antique Hanukiyyah, made in Jerusalem at least a hundred years ago, of brass which was, like so many things, probably salvaged from the sheet brass used in old automobile reflectors.  Not very old in Jerusalem years!

I bought it in downtown Jerusalem, six or eight years ago.  I was about to get on my bus–the number 21 bus that goes to the German Colony, Dov–when a flash of brass and glass caught my eye.

Before and during holidays in Israel, tables go up on every reasonably flat surface, and the place becomes a heaving jumble of street sales.  Most of it is table cloths, needful supplies, decorations…And occasionally something very special.

This was so very, very special that I stepped backward off my bus, nearly causing the sort of cultural disaster that only happens in ethnic groups like mine, where men and women are never supposed to touch one another in public.  But I couldn’t stop for that.  I had to run and make my deal with this guy before he got away or sold it to someone else.  No, impossible.  This Hanukiyyah is mine!

He hailed from an old Mizrachi Yerushalmi family, by way of Cairo.

Mizrachi means “from the East,” and Yerushalmi, “Jerusalemite.”

That is to say, after having been dragged off into exile from Jerusalem by the Persians, Babylonians, Greeks, or Romans, his family either made it directly to Egypt, or got there courtesy of Queen Isabella in 1492, when many of those who were exiled from Spain–Portugal headed for Cairo to join family there.  In the 1500s there was a migration back into the Holy Land, with further tricklings here and there, augmented by serial expulsions of Jews from Cairo, minus their wealth….

But not without their breathtaking skill at making something out of nothing.  In this we excel, having had to do it over and over and over and over and….

How much is it?  Kamah zeh???


Two thousand????   I don’t have that much!!!!

Appraising look.

Aht Amerika’it, nakhon?

Well, yes, I was born in America, but now I am from Jerusalem…

Ahhh…Aht be’emet Yerushalmit???!!!

Yes, I am a Jerusalemite-ess!!!

Tov, az, yesh kaspomat shamma.  (Hooks shoulder in the direction of ATM.)

Beseder, aval ain li col-kakh harbe kesev ka’zeh…Fine, but I ain’t got that much money!

We settled at rather more than I would have liked to have parted with…But he saw that my eyes were firmly dilated and fixed on this magical carpet ride of a light box…And I reminded myself that when one finds an object of great power and beauty, it is not an accident, and we must pay whatever we can raise, to draw it near to us.

And now I sit, on the other side of the world, and dream of the magic this Hanukiyyah has brought me.

Like the time a tour guide tapped at my open door, in my ancient Jerusalem neighborhood where the custom is to light one’s Hanukkah oil lamps out of doors. 

I had mine blazing inside this very Hanukiyyah, balanced on a stool in the stone archway of my home.

The guide explained that he had a group of college girls from Petah Tikvah, and could they come in and listen to me play the violin?

Oh dear, I had not counted on anyone actually hearing me play!  I was just doodling, you see….But by that time my living room was full of giggling fresh faced girls.

To put them off the violin, I ran in the kitchen and fetched the box of fresh sufganiyot I had bought for a party later that evening; also mugs and hot cider.  Soon they were giggling and nibbling, and I pitched into an old-timey American fiddle tune and made their toes tap inside the ballet flats in which every Israeli school girl runs over the hard stone pavers.

A sufganiyah…now that is the substance of which years of joy are made.

It is nominally a filled doughnut.

But nothing, nothing like American jelly donuts, ugh, or even Boston Cremes!

Sufganiyot are filled with things like pistachio, halvah, almond paste, and of course chocolate (bitter, milk, white), dates, oh, what endless varieties of flavors, and can be had in spelt flour too.  But fried.  Always fried, because the secret of Hanukkah is in the Oil.

The Knife Intifada Video

Yup, you’re right.  I don’t drag politics into my blog, because my blog is about living with mental illness, and I hold to that.

However, there is something going on in the world that can no longer be ignored, pushed off as a one-off, or justified by other actions.

Rather than waste more of your time, I ask you to watch what’s going on here, and regardless of your political position, ask yourself, “what does this mean for ME, as a human being, and for the world?  Do I believe in genocide for any reason?  Who is the people who are marked for genocide here?  Are they a numerous people?  Is genocide condoned by the UN?”

Taking It On The Chin (literally)

Before I started practicing Judaism seriously, which means abstaining from anything that doesn’t have to do with Shabbat from sundown Friday evening to sundown Saturday night, I often watched the Friday Night Fights with my dad.  It wasn’t so much that I loved watching grown men beat the shit out of each other; it was the camaraderie with my dad, drinking Scotch or Bourbon and critiquing each punch: the armchair referees.

Thus I came to know a little bit about the boxing lexicon: uppercut, jab, roundhouse, body punch, slug it out, slugfest, knockdown.  I learned the various strategies for attaining the desired end-point to a match: a Knock-Out.  That is exactly what it sounds like: the guy gets knocked unconscious.  Yeah, I know.  It’s like, Cro-magnons duking it out for a fair damsel or a haunch of mammoth meat.

Next best to the Knockout, or KO, is the TKO or Technical Knockout, which means the dude is knocked down and can’t stand up before the referee (joined by the audience) counts to ten.  Blood lust.

There are lots of ways to score a KO.  One is to wear your opponent down with a long series of body punches.  Hey, there are only so many jabs to the kidneys and liver the poor body can take before it becomes incapable of either staying out of the way of the next punch, or mustering the strength and accuracy to land a good one on the other guy.

The most effective KO, though, is the direct route: a solid uppercut to the chin.  For some reason, a sound blow to the chin causes instant unconsciousness.

I got to experience that first-hand ten days ago when I somehow fell into a hardware store on Rehov Agrippas (Agrippas Street), around the corner from where I live in Jerusalem.  I can’t remember how it happened.  I remember waking up hazily, watching somebody pick my other sandal up off the sidewalk and throw it into the store.  Toda rabbah (thank you).

Then a man and a woman, who seemed to be the proprietors of the hardware store, pulled me up off the floor and deposited me in a chair.  They brought me a glass of cold water.  I thanked them, and pulled off the hanging strip of skin that used to be attached to my arm from wrist to elbow, and threw it on the floor.  I wasn’t pleased with the damn hardware store for KO’ing me.  I drank the water, dripping blood on their floor, then asked to wash my wound.  They led me to the hardware store sink, which wasn’t meant for wound care, but it had water, so it had to do.  Then I wrapped my arm in half a roll of paper towels and bought the desk lamp I had intended to buy when I fell in and then fell out, and wobbled home.

When I got safely in my own door, I systematically assessed the damage.  My bottom front teeth all felt dicey.  It’s a good thing I have metal braces on the inside of my front teeth (yeah, I know, that’s another story).  Otherwise I think I would have lost them.  As it was, the whole inside of my lower lip and gums looked like hamburger.  Yecchh.

Everywhere else on my head looked fine.  Then I noticed the lump on my chin.  Damn!  How did that happen?  With the exclusion of the skin avulsion on my right arm, which must have slid down the metal door of the store, I had no other evidence of injury.  I must have taken one squarely on the chin!

The question is, how?  Maybe I tripped on the one step leading into the store.  I do tend to have a foot-drop when I get tired, due to old injuries.  Maybe that was it.

There is a theory that I might have seizures sometimes, because on one other occasion I found myself on a Jerusalem stone floor with a huge goose-egg on my head (and a whopper headache), and no clue how I got there.

At any rate, I certainly got a lovely concussion out of this one.  My generally poor memory has disappeared altogether.  Hell, I might have written a post on this already, and don’t remember writing it.  If I have, please forgive me.  My brain is still somewhat addled, even ten days later.

No, I did not go to the doctor.  The last time I went to the doctor for a head injury was so useless that I decided not to bother, since all they did was to observe me for six hours, and since I was still alive after six hours, they sent me home with a prescription for a pain medicine that I’m allergic to.  So I decided to wait it out at home, and if I kicked off, so be it.  I let my neighbor know so he would check on me and if I was unconscious call the ambulance and take care of my dog, and if I was dead call the Chevra Kadisha (Burial Society) and invite people to my funeral.

But none of the above happened.  I’ve been doctoring the wound on my arm and it’s healing nicely.  I put some ice on my chin and the swelling went down and a purple bruise showed up, which made people stare and wonder if I was a victim of domestic violence.  Nobody asked.

The headaches have gone away, and in their place is a vague disorientation: I can’t remember if I did what I set out to do, or whether I ate breakfast.  Actually, it’s immaterial.  Whatever is really important will either happen on its own, or remind me in one way or another: like Noga, my dog, sitting patiently yet expectantly at my feet looking up into my face, which means I have forgotten to feed her.

I am reminded of the proverb that accompanied my doctoring days:  “Time heals all wounds; all bleeding eventually stops.”

A lesson in watching out, and looking forward to tomorrow!

What did I do today?  What didn’t I do today!  I ran over to my dear neighbor Judy’s for a big squasher-squeezer hug, because I hadn’t seen her since I returned to Jerusalem.  We had a whirlwind catch-up chat, and then it was time for me to go somewhere else–I forget where.  The day continued on that note (in the meantime doing laundry at my friend Rafael’s, who lives half a block away) until my landlord FINALLY showed up to fix a bunch of things that needed fixing.  I wanted him to tell me how to keep the giant cockroaches, the size of a Volkswagon, out of my kitchen and bathroom at night (they are cowards: they won’t show an antenna in the light).  He just shuddered and shrugged his shoulders.  Big help.

Spent the whole rest of the day editing my book proposal.  Finally got tired and decided to go out for gleeda.  That’s ice cream in Hebrew.  I started out walking toward the shuk, which is incredibly crowded in the evenings these days because of Ramadan; but before I could get there I encountered an elderly blind woman who had got seriously turned around and was doing battle with her white cane against an enormous garbage bin.  I asked her if she needed help and she clamped onto my elbow like a vise-grip wrench.

She told me where she wanted to go, and exactly how to get there.  The streets were packed.  Cars parked on the sidewalks.  The obstacle course was challenging enough to me, but she really didn’t seem to mind it at all, now that she had me to hang onto.  I often doubted the wisdom of this, given that I had forgotten the Hebrew words for “curb” and “pothole.” No matter.  She dragged me straight into the surging sea of traffic and out the other side, where I got confused about some ambiguous street signs and had to be helped by the blind lady to figure out where I was.   At least someone on this team had the ball.  Somehow we managed to end up at her apartment building.  And guess what!  It was right across the street from the gleeda shop!  How’s that for instant reward?

And now for the plug: don’t touch that dial, folks, stay tuned for tomorrow’s edition of Breaking the Silence of Stigma.  My planned guest had to cancel due to a family emergency, so I took the opportunity to write a story I’ve been wanting to write for a long time.  Hope to see y’all in the comments!

Holy moley, back to the Holy Land again!

So yes, I have been back and forth a lot this year.  Israel is my home.  There is no where else in this world that I feel at home.  I felt at home there the moment I stepped off the plane on my first visit in 2005.  I returned in 2006 to study in a women’s seminary, and in 2007 I made Aliyah: I moved to Israel.

When I settled there, I knew that at some point I would be obligated to return to America to help my parents, who are now 88 and 86, respectively.  That point came in the terrible winter of 2010-2011, when their remote mountain home was completely surrounded by ice, and my father had begun to fall frequently, and my mother was freaking out.  I had already flown in from Israel three times to “put out fires,” and the fourth time my mother called begging for help I packed up my house and was back in the U.S. in three weeks.

They really did need me then.  My father was in the early stages of dementia, and was struggling to maintain what was left of himself.   He refused to use any assistive devices, not even a cane.  He was constantly falling asleep at the dining table and sometimes falling off his chair.  One time I had to extract him from under the table, where he had slid down and was tangled among the table legs with his arms pinned under him.

Then finally he fell and broke his wrist badly and got a concussion to boot, and was in the hospital for a couple of days.  While he was there, I had his bed brought down from upstairs and made the living room into a bedroom.   When he had recovered enough to understand speech, my mother and I forbade him ever to use the spiral staircase again.  He was incensed and called us his jailers, which he does to this day, but better jailers than to have some disaster on the steel spiral staircase that reminds me of a submarine.

The past two-and-a-half years, since I’ve been here, have been tempestuous and productive all at once.  If you are a regular reader, you will know that I have had issues with PTSD caused by my abusive mother, who has not changed any since I left home at 16.  So staying here has been a challenge, to say the least.

A few weeks ago I couldn’t take it anymore.  I had developed high blood pressure.  I was constantly filled with rage.  Suicidal fantasies filled my days and nights.  Not just THAT I wanted to kill myself: developing more and better and more sophisticated methods, so that I wouldn’t be found.  Oy.

I knew I had to get out of here, get back to the Holy Land for a few weeks, breathe the air in Jerusalem that is filled with holiness, even if it’s also sometimes filled with dust.  So I booked a flight for a three week respite, announced my plans to the P’s, and took off.

Do you know, I have so many friends in the Holy Land that in three weeks I could not even visit two-thirds of them?  My family is there, my family of choice, the loves of my life.  I got to see some of my patients, who have become dear friends.  Two of them have had children while I was gone.  Actually, more than two–no, three–no, four–and three of those have had TWO children while I was gone!  I went around smooching babies.  I had coffee and Israeli breakfast (oh, Israeli breakfast!  I could do a whole post on Israeli breakfast.  Maybe I will.) with a lady so pregnant that she could hardly reach the table.  She has since given birth to a girl, MAZAL TOV, even more mazal tov since she already has four little boys.

I stayed with my adopted brother. We took bus trips to exotic places and had extraordinary meals and adventures.  And we made Shabbos together and drank strong Israeli port wine (20% alcohol!) and solved all the problems of the world.

I spent one Shabbos with my adoptive family, my rabbi and his wonderful wife (my adopted sister) and their adult children and grandchildren.  We sang and learned Torah together and laughed and cried and I felt bathed in love.

And then it was time to leave.

I freaked out.  I ran to the rabbi upstairs.  He is an expert in Jewish Law, and qualified to judge cases.  He is also an expert therapist.  Two hours with him, and I knew what I had to do: I had to save myself by being in the Land with my real family.  So I scuttled about and **voila** found a tiny apartment, just right for my needs, and signed a one-year lease.  That night I flew back to the States.

I had already told my parents that I planned to return to Israel for the High Holidays plus the month preceding them.  My custom is to devote that month, Elul, to intense Torah learning, in preparation for the Days of Awe: the ten days between Rosh Ha’Shanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  There is much spiritual work to be done, if one is to get the most out of those intense and heavy days.

But as soon as the plane hit the tarmac on my return from this three week trip, my heart sank into my shoes.  I just feel terrible here.  I belong in Israel.  I belong TO Israel, and she belongs to me.  We are lovers.  I am my lover, and my lover is me.  I did not know what I would do, how I would be able to survive the–what, six weeks?–of what remained of the summer, because I knew that after the next trip, I would be back here for the winter, and who knows how much longer?

I tried to put a good face on it, and smile, and I don’t think it worked, because yesterday my parents told me, in a kind way, that they know I am not happy here, and they know I am very happy there, and they want me to be happy, so they want me to return to the Holy Land.

This is bitter-sweet for me.  Part of me is elated that they have released me.  Part of me feels like I am failing them.  Both the rabbi in Jerusalem and my therapist here tell me that this is guilt, and guilt is in no way productive, and it is entirely optional.  I plan to get over that guilt, because this place is killing me.  The rabbi in Jerusalem reminded me that we are not permitted to harm ourselves in any way, and even I have said that very thing on this very blog.

My ticket is at the end of July, with an early October return.  I might extend that through November so that I can spend Chanukah in Jerusalem, that amazing festival of light and enlightenment.  And then we will see, we will see what the light brings in.

My Channukiyah (menorah) in Jerusalem

My Channukiyah (menorah) in Jerusalem

Weekly Photo Challenge: Culture


Uzbekistani (Bucharin) Jews putting on an impromptu play about Queen Esther and her uncle Mordechai for the holiday Purim, taken at Shuk Machane Yehudah (the central marketplace) in Jerusalem with an iPhone, 2010

No, This Is Not Jerusalem. It’s Somewhere Else.

The first time I found myself in Jerusalem, in 2005, I knew This Was It.  I Was Home.  Why?  That can only be explained by my Adopted Sister KupKake’s explanation, which I will explain as follows:  Someone did an experiment with clams (yes I know they are not kosher but neither is this post).  Everyone knows that clams open and close in sync with the tides, right?  Well you should.  So they took clams from the East Coast Atlantic (yes, of America, where else) and planted them in the West Coast Pacific (yes of course they gave them expensive sunglasses).  And sunovabitch if the little fuckers didn’t open and close, not on West Coast Pacific tidal times, but right exactly according to the East Coast Atlantic tide tables of the place from which they were plucked (if you live on the coast you get the tide tables, which tell you when is the optimal time to go clamming, and when is the optimal time to drown.)giant-clam

So according to KupKake, the reason both she and I feel so awesome good when we’re in Jerusalem is that our clams are opening and closing at the right times.  Get it?  I didn’t expect you to.  Never mind.

So when I was called back to Amerika to take care of important family duties, at first I couldn’t get over the clam business.  My clams were clamoring to be back HOME.   I was bereft, and bawled every day for days on end.  Like about 365 of them.  Then I cut back to every other day, then three times a week.  Then my shrink upped my med doses, and now I don’t give a flying fuck about anything at all so I rarely cry for the loss of my Jerusalem.

Nevertheless I think about her all the time.  Jerusalem is a crazy place to live.  It is truly the only place I feel at home, even though my hermetic habits do not change there (the federal disability judge recently issued an official statement proclaiming that I am a Recluse.  I guess that makes me an OFFICIAL recluse.  I always wanted to be a recluse, so there.  If that muggle judge couldn’t see with his own eyes that I’m an Alien, well, well….it doesn’t matter.)



Anyway.  When I am in Jerusalem, cozied up in my house, not going out except to the shuk (public market) which is my favorite place in the entire world, full of noise and noisome smells like rotting vegetables and rancid meat and aging fish and dead cats and stale beer and bad cigars and B.O., and delicious smells like freshly baking pita and Turkish coffee and ripe fruit and fresh spices and Moroccan soups cooking and the wet leaves of fresh celery, when I am not going anywhere except the transports of the magic carpet ride of my favorite sunken-in once-overstuffed but now-understuffed chair, I can close my eyes and listen to the boisterous National Religious youth singing passages from Psalms about Jerusalem, shouting when they get to “Yerushalayim,” which is Jerusalem in Hebrew;  or the Mizrachi (Middle Eastern Jewish) youth singing the same line from Psalms in a whole different tune and shouting when they get to Yerushalayim;  or the Yeshivish youth, much more conservative and much more drunk, singing yet another tune to the same Psalm and shouting when they get to Yerushalayim.  And then there are the American youth, drunker than all of them put together, doing the same thing.  All of this I hear from my Magic Carpet Chair in my home in Yerushalayim, which sadly I have lost because I have had to be in Amerika so long.

Machane Yehuda Shuk 1

Machane Yehuda Shuk 1

On the other hand.  What am I here for?  I ask that daily, for it is very important to ask and to answer that question daily.  I am here to be part of my father’s last days.  I am here to fix some things that were broken, that were neglected, that were threatening to be lost.  These too are likely to bring tears, even in my placidly drugged state.  That is good, as it shows that I am still somewhat alive after all, even though I am a legally official Recluse.alien woman head

From my magic carpet chair above the waterfall beneath my window, I float from here to there.  I cannot go to the Shuk to regain equilibrium; the river is now my Polaris.  I look to the River for orientation.  The music of the river must needs take the place of the hoards of boisterous youth shouting Psalms.  If I listen quietly I can hear them in the roar of the waterfall beneath my window.  I can go out and freeze on my deck above the falls and have every thought swept away by the thundering water, even Yerushalayim.  And that is scary, to think that for one moment I could lose Her to a mere body of water crashing over rocks.

But maybe it’s not that way at all.  Maybe this IS Yerushalayim for me, here, now, because this is what it is, and this is where I need to be, and ought to be, and must be.  And Yerushalayim is where she is, and she is here too, in this rushing water, and in this Magic Carpet Chair with my little Lhasa Apso tucked under my right elbow, as usual.  

If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem

If I forget thee, O Jerusalem

Forget, then, the power of my right hand

Make my tongue cleave to my palate

If I fail to recall you.

–King David, Psalm 137

I had intended to write a completely different post tonight, but while I was cooking dinner I was overcome by longing for Jerusalem.  This usually brings on floods of tears and heart-rending grief, and tonight is no exception.

January 11th marked two years since I returned to the States to help my elderly parents. Before that, I had four glorious years in Jerusalem, the only place on earth that feels like home to me.  I will return, God willing, as soon as circumstances allow.  I hope to die and be buried there.

Jerusalem is a city of riotous variety of peoples and ways of life.  You can go to the Old City and bask in the awe of its ancient arches.

Portal into another world: Rehov Habad, Jerusalem, Ir ha'Atiqa

Portal into another world: Rehov Habad, Jerusalem, Ir ha’Atiqa


Or you can go to the Shuk, the open marketplace rioting with color and jumbles of cultures, Jew and Arab and Christian all jostling for the best fresh pita, halva, olives, fish, meat, vegetables, cookies, bourekas (the local filled puff pastries), pots and pans, headscarves, seasonal delicacies, etc., etc., etc.

Machane Yehuda Shuk 1

Machane Yehuda Shuk 1

During festivals things get even crazier.  The wonderfully colorful and deeply mystical festival of Purim has many traditions associated with it, one of which is dressing up.

Women's Purim Party at SY's

Women’s Purim Party at SY’s

That’s me on the left, at an all-women’s Purim party that happens every year at Sarah Yehudit Schneider’s place in the Old City.  She’s a Mekubelet, a deeply learned teacher of Kabbalah, and one of my principle teachers.  She’s highly respected among the Mekubalim, the male Kabbalists who take a lot of impressing to be impressed by a woman.  That’s one of the aggravating parts of Jerusalem is the deep rift between male and female.  There are reasons for it, but it still gets to me.

I miss my religious community there…there is nothing like it here in the States, and certainly not here in Grinder’s Switch (any Minnie Pearl fans out there?)

The Men's Side

The Men’s Side


The Women's Side

The Women’s Side

I miss walking down the street and seeing Armenian priests in their black robes and tall hats, the nuns in black habits and impossibly uncomfortable-looking headgear, Muslim women cloaked from head to toe walking arm in arm with their tee-shirted, cut-off-jeaned, mulleted husbands.  I miss my own community, the married women seeming to compete for the most elaborate hair coverings, and of course the weddings

Bride Praying

Bride Praying

This is my friend’s new daughter-in-law praying before her husband-to-be comes, escorted by his father and her father, to lift her veil and look into her eyes deeply.  Then he will lower her veil back into place and go away.  I honestly don’t know what the men do between that time and the next part of the wedding ritual, when the friends of the groom come and escort the bride and all the women, singing special songs, to the chuppah, or wedding canopy.  The groom and the fathers will already be there, and the bride and the mothers, who are holding candles as you can see in the picture above, circle the groom seven times clockwise, and the bride then stands on the groom’s right.DSC00042

I got this shot from behind the chuppah because there were so many people packed into the wedding hall that I had no hope of getting a shot from in front.  Orthodox Jews in Israel mostly get married in wedding halls and not synogogues.  The chuppah, or canopy, that you see here is made up of the prayer shawls of the two fathers and the new one that the bride gifts the groom as part of the ceremony.  It’s very beautiful.  After the ceremony there is a huge feast.  The bride’s family traditionally provides the food.  This bride is from Uzbekestan, and we had Uzbekistani food which is honestly the best food I have ever had.

After the food comes the dancing.  There is a partition between the men’s section and the women’s section, for modesty.  The dancing on the women’s side is just crazy.  They will set off fireworks indoors, explode confetti cannons, put the bride on a tablecloth and throw her into the air, and put the bride and the groom on chairs and hold them up above the partition so they can have a little air dance together.

Why nobody gets killed at Jewish weddings, I don’t know.  They do sometimes get killed at Arab weddings, because they have a tradition of shooting off guns and sometimes somebody gets killed by mistake.

Oh right, I wanted to say that the dancing on the men’s side is mostly boring except when they have acrobatics done by young men in suits.  I have watched these things and all I can say is that Jewish weddings encourage me to believe there is a God because everyone seems to walk out able-bodied.

But most of all I miss being part of my huge Jewish family, over six million in little tiny Israel, six million to replace the six million.


One of my rabbi’s sons, showing us his very long tongue.  The hole-y tights with the star belong to one of his sisters.