Among the Vines, Two Wanderers Find Their Way Home

A young couple deals with religion, a lack of religion, and families continents apart as they celebrate their union - and boogie down.

Ron Ben-Tovim
Ron Ben-Tovim
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Ron Ben-Tovim
Ron Ben-Tovim

Location: Belev Hakerem reception garden

Time: 7 P.M.

In the neighborhood: A darkened and winding gravel road runs through the fields near the town of Mazkeret Batya in central Israel. By a dirt parking lot, a path covered in vines leads to a large vineyard.

Venue: In the heart of the vineyard, square tables covered with white tablecloths are arranged around a hardwood dance floor. Bright lights, awash with the requisite insects flying around, color the elegant vine rows with flashy green and yellow.

Simcha: Gavriel and Frumie’s wedding

Number of guests: 300

A brief history of time: Gavriel (Gavri), 29, a budding photographer, was born to Aryeh and Dvorah Weinberger. He and his seven brothers and sisters were raised in a religious-Zionist home in Jerusalem.

While most of his siblings retained their parents’ religious lifestyle, Gavri opted out when he was a teenager. This caused something of a stir at the Weinberger home. Gavri: “When I was 16 it was messy. I’ve mellowed since.”

Frumie, 30, who has just made her foray into Israel’s tourism industry, was born to Leo and Sarah Horowitz in Brooklyn, the middle child in a religious New York home. After visiting Israel a few times, she decided about eight years ago to make aliyah on her own. Frumie: “It was a Zionist thing. I always loved coming here.”

Getting together: A mutual friend of sorts kept insisting that the two get together, citing the characteristics he thought made Gavri and Frumie a perfect fit. Gavri: “He told me: ‘Listen she’s American like you,’ and I’m not really American, my parents are, and ‘she’s religious, like you,’ and I wasn’t really religious.”

About a year later, Gavri popped the question as the couple were on their way to a hotel getaway. Gavri proposed in a cave in the north: “I knew there were nice caves there ever since I walked the Israel Trail.”

At the wedding, the trick is to combine it all: the religious, the less religious, the American, the Israeli, the traditional, the not-so-traditional.

Rites: As guests slowly amass at the well-lit field, Gavri, both sets of parents and the couple’s rabbi enter a special room to peruse and sign the ketubah.

The parents and witnesses sign, Aryeh gives his son the priestly blessing, and the two moms break a plate to finalize the deal (“Mazal tov!”). A tiny grasshopper leaps onto the white curtain that separates the small space from the wedding reception.

Downstairs, Frumie greets friends and family in a mostly female crowd, with some women wearing short skirts or trousers, some with flowing and colorful head scarves, others with more traditional head coverings.

Next, the guests are called over to the chuppah, forming an aisle all the way to a white canopy held aloft by four young women holding each pole. Gavri and his family await the bride until, with a flourish of a cappella singing by two friends in the back, Frumie arrives, flanked by her parents. She’s escorted by Gavri to the chuppah, where the bride circles the groom seven times.

Heads covered by myriad manners of kippa look on as the rabbi begins the bilingual ceremony. He stresses the importance of the wedding ceremony (“the making of a whole out of two halves”). On a nearby train track, a double-decker train whooshes by, illuminating the vines.

Next, family members are invited to read the ketubah and the seven blessings, some using an iPhone to remember the wording. In the crowd, amid the vines to the side, a friend helps his girlfriend change from high heels into sensible shoes.

The ceremony ends with Frumie giving Gavri a ring of his own (“I found what my soul has been searching for”), and the rabbi mentions Gavri’s good friend Shlomo, who died of cancer just a few months earlier. But this somber note is severed by the familiar crash of broken glass – at the second try. The platform is awash in hugs and kisses.

The party soon moves to the now-separated dance floor as family members, Frumie and her female friends quickly fill the women’s side with dancing. The men, led by Gavri, take a few minutes to catch up.

But it isn’t long before the separation is compromised by men and women shifting between the two sides, a move highlighted by Frumie’s foray into her husband’s side, where friends and family dance in front of the new couple.

After the dancing comes a bit of food and entertainment — a short film depicting the newlyweds as a 1920s damsel in distress and her dashing savior. Then the dancing resumes, this time without the separation walls and without many of the religious relatives.

Music: Hasidic music for the first tranche of dancing, Western pop for the rest.

Food: Assorted starters (dim sum, meat empanadas, hummus). Main courses: roast beef, spring chicken, kebab and chorizos.

Drink: Beer, wine, soft drinks and juices.

Word in the ear: Gavri, on the possibility of having a nonreligious ceremony: “If it were up to me, maybe, but that was part of the compromise, to let them manage it, my dad and the parents.”

Frumie: “We didn’t let them take over completely, but it was important to me too.”

In my spiritual doggy bag: People who go against the flow, whether geographically or spiritually, flock together.

Random quote: A friend pointing at his friends struggling to change shoes among the vines: “They just couldn’t help themselves!”

Want to take part in Someone Else’s Simcha? Want to invite Haaretz to your family celebration? Send word to: HaaretzSimcha@gmail.com

Frumie Horowitz and Gavriel Weinberger get married at Mazkeret Batya, August 2014. Credit: Gil Cohen-Magen
A short film depicting the newlyweds as a 1920s damsel in distress and her dashing savior.
Frumie Horowitz and Gavriel Weinberger get married at Mazkeret Batya, August 2014.
Gavri wasn't so unreligious that he rejected a classic Jewish wedding.
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A short film depicting the newlyweds as a 1920s damsel in distress and her dashing savior. Credit: Gil Cohen-Magen
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Frumie Horowitz and Gavriel Weinberger get married at Mazkeret Batya, August 2014. Credit: Gil Cohen-Magen
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Gavri wasn't so unreligious that he rejected a classic Jewish wedding. Credit: Gil Cohen-Magen
Gavri and Frumie's wedding

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