Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Day 5: A Wedding in Jerusalem

A Wedding in Jerusalem

Thursday, August 17, 2006

I spent today preparing for the wedding. I received a call from Steve (Shlomo) and Ilana Bernstein. They had just been blessed with a child, and told me that they had heard of a chayal killed, whose name was Shai, the son of Shlomo, Bernstein. Their child’s name would also be Shai, and have the exact name of the fallen soldier, Shai, the son of Shlomo, Bernstein. I reached the soldier’s family in Be’ersheva. They were still sitting shiva. Shai’s sister was overwhelmed when she heard the news that her brother’s name would live on.

The wedding was surreal. Hadar and Ofer, their family and friends, many of whom had been serving in Lebanon, were pouring in wearing jeans and over shirts. Under the chuppah, I said, that the days of preparing for this wedding were difficult. “How does one dance and sing after such pain? No one knows why we suffered so. Our responsibility is to turn darkness into light, to go on, to marry, to have children and family, to build people and the land of Israel.” I thought long before mentioning this under the chuppah, but Ofer and Hadar felt it important.

The final sheva brachot of the wedding night included a mix of Israelis from all walks of life sitting around a table. Matan Vilna’i, who almost became Israel’s Chief of Staff few years ago, Eliezer Hemeli, a Brigadier General, da’atiyim and non da’atiyim, joined in singing Chassidic and modern Israeli melodies.

After the sheva brachot, a rock band played as Ofer, Hadar and their friends danced the night away. I sat there, thinking, here I am, an Orthodox rabbi, watching disco dancing, and yet, it was all holy. All these youngsters were for me, da’atiyim. They are young men and women, battle weary, who are ready to give their lives for all of us. All they want to do is to laugh, sing, and live.

I felt alive as Israeli music filled the air. This is our home, Israel. The fullness of Jewish life unfolds here. Funerals and weddings, tears and laughter, the differences were sharp. Yet the Israelis move on. Mind you, it’s not without a price. My sense is, that the mood swings in Israel are so swift, it plays out in the tension that often prevails in Israel in the way people drive, do business, talk to each other, and much more.

Day 1: Arrival and Visiting the Family of Daniel Gomez
Day 2: Rambam Hospital, Greenberg Unveiling and Gomez Funeral
Day 3: Kiryat Shmona and Tsfat
Day 4: Maalot and Goldwasser Family in Nahariya
Day 5: A Wedding in Jerusalem
Days 6-8: Shabbat and Departure

Diary of Rabbi Avi Weiss' Trip to Israel During the War

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