Location: Hagiga Ba’Kfar reception garden
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Time: 7:30 P.M.
In the neighborhood: A line of cars snakes into the quiet streets of Kfar Hess – a moshav located about 20 minutes southeast of Netanya – their headlights flashing the one-story, red-tiled houses. In the parking lot, the edge of surrounding fields is exposed by orange streetlights.
Venue: A lush garden, made up of a verdant seating area, featuring square, elegantly arranged tables covered with checkered cloths; a decked finger-food and drinks section; and, last but not least, a chuppah area, with rows of white chairs divided by an aisle. Delicate strings of lights twinkle from branches overhead.
Simcha: Nitai and Saharon’s wedding
Number of guests: ~200
A brief history of time: Nitai, 27, an electrical engineering student, was born to Avi and Tzofit Elazari, who arrived at the central Israeli city of Hod Hasharon via Kibbutz Ayalon (Nitai: “The kibbutz was falling apart”) and a short stint in Atlanta, Ga., along with his floral siblings: twins Shaked (almond) and Ya’ara (a type of honeysuckle) and little sister Marva (sage). Saharon, 27, a medical student, who herself is named for a biblical jewel, was born to Shlomi and Hagit Less, arriving at Hod Hasharon from Tel Aviv with little sister, Magal.
Other than sharing a propensity for travel and an attraction to uncommon names, both families are, to an extent, quite secular, ranging from the Less’ flirtation with tradition (Saharon: “My dad fasts on Yom Kippur and separates dairy and meat) to the Elazaris’ more hands-off approach (Nitai: “My mom came from a religious home, but she gave that up”).
Getting together: The high-school sweethearts started dating after Saharon took a liking to the tall-ish, dark-ish stranger who dropped into her life following his family’s three years in Atlanta. Silently sizing each other up (Saharon: “He was a shy guy. But he’s better now”), the young couple-to-be never really hit it off until a romantic yet sweaty long-distance running event at school brought them closer (Saharon: “He literally had to drag me the entire way”).
Once the link was established, with slight urgings from Saharon, the road was clear for some good ole-fashioned dating, starting at arguably the two hottest dating locations in the region: a parking lot overlooking Tel Aviv, and -- even more romantic -- a shawarma joint (Nitai: “What can I say, I was a high school senior”). The latter was also the site of their first kiss (Nitai: “The kiss came way after the shawarma!”).
Proposal: Following a long, storied relationship, spanning high school, military service, the obligatory post-army trip (to India and Nepal), and moving in together, it was clear that marriage was coming. But, quite clear apparently isn’t clear enough, prompting the ever-more frustrated Saharon to drop increasingly heavier hints.
It all came to a head one fateful meeting this May, in which a flustered Saharon, who was set to give up on trying to push Nitai toward victory, made it clear that, given her school schedule and workload, they were running out of time. Nitai, playing it cool, didn’t really get the picture. Saharon: “He said – ‘You remember I love you, right?’” But what Saharon didn’t know was that her scheming boyfriend had already set the trap. Nitai: “Everything was done, the ring, the restaurant, the cabin.”
Executing his plot one solid, deceiving brick after another, Nitai achieved the seeming impossible: fooling the ever-vigilant Saharon into his matrimonial snare. And, to make a long story short, bringing her to a cabin, with a ring, a bottle of wine and some roses, he got her to say “yes” without really understanding how it all happened. Sahraon: “I was so emotional, but I also had to know how he did it!”
Rites: The young couple greets the incoming flux of friends and family, beaming with smiles, as speakers emit easy-listening tracks. Following an impressive bout of hors d’oeuvres (see below), guests are invited to the chuppah area. The rows of chairs, reserved for those too young or old to stand slowly fill up. One middle-age woman eyes an empty chair and goes for it (“It’s for old people, and what am I exactly?”).
The families wait under the chuppah as Nitah and Saharon approach, hand in hand. They stop a few steps away, Nitai covering Saharon’s beaming face with a transparent lace veil. A few more steps in, with everyone safely in place, the ceremony begins.
With the rabbi swimming through blessings and explanations, the ring portion of the evening is over, with a visibly emotional Saharon exhaling a deep breath that slightly shifts her veil. Nitai moves in to kiss Saharon following the blessing for the wine, with Saharon eyeing to rabbi as if to say “Not yet!”
The rabbi then passes along the glass of wine, urging single men and women to sip from it so as to be blessed with a spouse. Next, the two read each other’s vows (“Much of what I am today is because of you”), followed by the traditional shattering of the glass.
As soon as the glass is gone, so disappears the chuppah, formerly propped by family and friends. The young couple moves in for a first kiss, now at the right time, just as a pack of Nitai’s friends shoves him joyously from behind, landing his face square on Saharon’s nose. A bit shook up, but soon over it, a massive hug-and-kiss fest ensues.
Following some food and dancing, everyone’s invited to watch a movie, much to Saharon and Nitai’s dismay, featuring sister Magal and brother Shaked (both spitting images of their siblings) acting out the major moments in Saharon and Nitai’s life together (including the famous running incident, field trips, a frustrated Saharon waiting for Nitai to propose).
The artistic portion, however, is far from done, as Nitai, again surprising Saharon, takes center stage with his harmonica and, accompanied by a friend on guitar, rocks out to Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called.” Even the cynical-looking DJ melts into a smile. Nitai earns a big hug and kiss, and the entire crowd bursts into dance.
Music: Run-of-the-mill wedding dance mix (Middle-Eastern pop, hip-hop, Western pop).
Food: Hors d’oeuvres: gazpacho, stone-bass ceviche, Caribbean chicken salad, bruschetta with cured meat and asparagus, lamb in phyllo, cauliflower in hot tahini; Mains: Minced lamb with herbs in a pita, beef shoulder stew, grilled chicken and vegetables.
Drink: Cocktails, wine, Israeli microbrewery beers, soft drinks, and juices.
In my spiritual doggy bag: Finding love also means losing control and being surprised. Even if that’s really hard to do.
Random quote: A young woman, held by her significant other, as she sips from the glass of wine sent by the rabbi as a good omen for a marriage: “Move on! The people who needed it got it!”
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