Location: Eden al Hama’im (Eden by the Water) reception hall
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Time: 7:30 P.M.
In the neighborhood: Near Kibbutz Nir Eliyahu, situated just outside the city of Kfar Sava, a wide garden surrounding a blue-lit pool stands awash in silvery light from a full moon above. A sharp breeze, the last remnant of a week’s worth of violent winter weather, blows ripples in the water reflecting the intensely illuminated reception hall.
Venue: A high-ceilinged, modern, timber-and-glass structure providing panoramic views of the outside gardens. The main hall is separated into reception area – including several food stations, a large bar, a chuppah area, and a dining area, set with dozens of square white tables decorated with white flower arrangements.
Simcha: Gilad and Noa’s wedding
Number of guests: 400
A brief history of time: Raised in a secular home (“My parents were both raised religious”) in Kochav Ya’ir by parents Rachel and Yaakov Zaydel, Noa, 31, grew up alongside big sisters Ronit and Dana. A lifelong sports enthusiast (“since I was 6”), Noa was working for a bank until she quit to start up her own running and Pilates group (“I’m a creative person, so it’s hard for me to work in strict places”). That choice, however, turned out to give Noa more than just an abundance of fresh air.
Gilad, 31, a dedicated long-distance runner, grew up in a secular Haifa home with parents Tzvia and Israel Stein, alongside little brothers Aviad and Elad. One day, a friend and fellow runner made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: a great girl’s phone number.
Noa: “He’s a person I work with and who trains in my group. We were talking about how he knew a guy he could set me up with, and so I said: ‘Go for it.’”
The magic, as they say, happened, and pretty quickly at that. Gilad: “We spoke on Thursday, went out on Friday, and we’ve been together ever since.” Noa: “It felt so good, there wasn’t any room for doubt.”
The proposal: With both runners knowing exactly where they were, ahem, running, it was just a question of when. The time and place chosen was Berlin’s annual marathon, just a few months after their first date. Taking an evening stroll the night before the race, Gilad surprised Noa with a little kneeling and a lot of ring. Noa: “I wasn’t expecting it. I mean, we knew where the relationship was going, but this was before a marathon, when he should be focusing on himself. I was thrilled.”
Rites: Guests, quick to escape the outdoor chill, nimbly file into the well-lit hall, standing in line for some warm finger food and small talk on this, that and running. A production worker slowly spreads line after line of white chairs ahead of the chuppah.
Huddling with a folded canopy and four posts at hand, a group of friends and siblings tries to figure out who’s holding what during the ceremony, debating whether or not kippas are mandatory (“I don’t care, I’m not wearing one!”). After finally assigning a post for all four men, and after agreeing to disagree on the head cover (final score 3:1, kippas win), the ceremony is underway.
The rabbi greets the family and friends, singing his way through the blessings (Boy in the crowd: “When do they break the glass?” His father: “At the end, at the end.” The rabbi, sporting a thick American accent, then explains the nuances of happiness in the Western Vs. Jewish understanding of the concept (“In the West, happiness defines life, and for us life defines happiness”). A friend watches on from the crowd with a napkin serving as his yarmulke.
A short explanation of the ketubah later (Rabbi: “It was created to protect women’s rights”), and following some more blessings, the glass is finally shattered as the young couple is snatched to the dance floor, preempting the usual post-chuppah hug-fest. Within seconds Gilad is hoisted by his friends, and a minute later a chair is brought for the customary “bride-and-groom-bobbing-up-down-on-people’s-shoulders” routine.
Dancing is broken off for a lengthy food break, after which Noa’s parents greet the newlyweds and an artfully made movie – featuring paper cutouts of the couple – narrates their many hobbies (running would be one) and their history together.
Lights go back up, as the couple breaks out in their first slow dance as a married couple. The smoke machine billows gray clouds all around, as friends slip onto the dance floor and turn the party up.
Music: Old-fashioned Israeli pop, Middle-Eastern pop and dance, and straight-up club bangers.
Food: Hors d’oeuvres: Tiny cups of pea soup, lamb kebab on kadaif, pasta and gnocchi, chicken and roasted vegetables; Mains: Roast beef with potatoes, salmon fillet with mashed sweet potatoes, spring chicken with rice.
Drink: Sangria, wine, beer, whiskey, juices and soft drinks.
Word in the ear: Noa, on whether or not the couple considered not marrying through the Rabbinate: “Some friends and family members tried to convince us not to, but we did it because it was important for our parents. Some people don’t necessarily believe in doing that anymore, also thinking about the divorce process, and just because it makes everything more difficult.”
In my spiritual doggy bag: That romance doesn’t have be a drawn-out affair, not when you know exactly what or whom you want.
Random quote: A middle-aged woman being offered a glass of sangria by a friend: “No, No! I had one of those, it’s dangerous for me!” (Proceeds to mime circles around her ear using her index finger).
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