Someone Else's Simcha Same-sex Couple Carves a Niche of Quiet in the Land of Noise

This vegetarian chuppah in Modi'in bore the hallmarks of contemporary secular society.

Ron Ben-Tovim
Ron Ben-Tovim
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Tsufit and Michal breaking the customary glasses at their wedding ceremony. Photos by Gil Cohen-Magen
Tsufit and Michal breaking the customary glasses at their wedding ceremony. Photos by Gil Cohen-Magen
Ron Ben-Tovim
Ron Ben-Tovim

Location: Hermozo reception hall

Time: 7:30 P.M.

In the neighborhood: Evening descends on the spacious industrial zone of the central Israel city of Modi’in, its streets painted bright orange by modern streetlights. Silence echoes between the glass-and-stone buildings, except for Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” being blasted out of the open doors of a nearby, and seemingly deserted, bar.

Venue: A sizable white structure, complete with gardens and colorful fountains, accented by towering neo-classical columns and a matching dome. Inside, the wide floor, made of polished black marble, reflects the bright white chandeliers overhead. Food counters are arranged along the wall, with most of the room taken up by casual seating and a modern chuppah section.

Simcha: Tsufit and Michal’s wedding

Number of guests: ~190

A brief history of time: Tsufit, 40, a high-tech worker, was born to Sarah and Shmuel Meyuhas, raised in a secular home alongside older siblings Dganit and Amit in the northern moshav of Bustan Hagalil. A scion to one of the families who arrived at the area following the Expulsion from Spain, Tsufit is 21st generation in the Land of Israel. Michal, 42, a therapeutic-horse-riding instructor, was born to Rosaline and Amos Shaham, raised in a devoutly secular home (“We performed Sabbath kiddush at the wrong time, and then ate pork”), alongside sisters Dana and Maya in a variety of settings and locations (Ramat Hasharon, Even Yehuda and Germany, being just a taste).

Getting together: The two met thanks to the help of an online dating service (Tsufit: “It’s kind of a boring story, it’s not like I saved her from falling from a cliff or something”), immediately finding a virtual liking for each other, much as a result of a shared love for the same songs, movies, and just about everything.

The first date took place near Michal’s workplace (Tsufit: “She’s get off work very tired and I didn’t want for her to travel very far), seamlessly continuing the online spark. The proposal, however, came from a third party. Michal: “We were sitting in my parents’ living room, my aunt was visiting from Canada, and she just said: ‘Why don’t you just get married?’ We kind of looked at each other, and it took of it’s own life from that point on.”

The two live together in Modi’in.

As Michal’s father Amos passed away around that time, the couple decided to postpone the happy occasion until at least a year has passed. The two will both appear at the chuppah without their fathers, as Tsufit’s dad Shmuel passed away eight years prior.

Rites: Guests, made up mostly of young, stylish men and women, chat away around the several food counters set up at the reception area, as swing versions of “Tainted Love” and “Take a Walk on the Wild Side” blast in the background. A group of young women, wearing colorful headscarfs, smile with drinks in their hands near the bar, their glasses glistening in the glow of a massive overhead lightning fixture.

Upon invitation from a disembodied MC, the crowd drifts through the sizeable hall to the chuppah section, all in bright white. On stage, an overwhelmingly female contingency awaits the happy couple, with Amit and the evening’s nondenominational ceremony leader, Yossi. Suddenly, the music shifts to a homemade cover version of K’s Choice’s “When I Lay Beside You,” exhibiting the impressive musical gifts of one Michal Shaham.

With the music in full swing, the couple, both dressed in white buttoned-down shirts and gray slacks, emerges from the front door, greeting by a swell of applause and yelps.

Yossi, all smiles in a dark-gray suit, sparks the official business end of the event (“To tradition we tonight add the fountainheads of Hebrew, modern Judaism”), making sure to provide short English translations for Michal’s Canadian family members. Yossi then names those who sadly could not attend the cerebration, especially Shmuel and Amos (“We know it’s their wish to celebrate this unique ceremony together”).

Then comes the blessing on the wine, followed by original vows said from one partner to the other, along with the required rings (“We choose to partner in matter and spirit and to build a home in Israel”). The two moms proudly look from each side. From a side service entry, some of the reception hall’s workers peep inward, chatting in Arabic and looking on. (Michal: “The hall was very enthusiastic about us getting married there: ‘You’re our first lesbian couple!’ and stuff like that.”)

Next comes the breaking of the glass, along with the required applause, as well as the kiss, and the long line of hugs and kisses from friends and family. Guests trickle from the ceremonial area to the dining area, with a few checking their smartphones for the latest score in the big basketball game between mortal enemies Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem.

In the darker, nightclub-ish dining section, guests quickly sit down at their tables, as Tsufit and Michal happily crisscross the room, jamming to such 1980s and 1990s musical luminaries as The Pixies and The Smiths. A group of religious friends arrives at the hall and heads straight to the party in process.

The couple then receives the official introduction from the adoring crowd, walking in together to cheers and towering sounds of music, that accompany the merry crowd into a night of dancing.

Music: Swing renditions of 1980s and 1990s hits, along with original 1980s and 1990s hits and some contemporary dance music.

Food: Reception: Vegetarian noodles, falafel, sushi, vegetarian shwarma and stuffed hot pockets or sambusak. Mains: Vegetarian pastry, artichoke ravioli, veggie stuffed vegetables and portabella-lentil burger.

Drink: Fancy-looking cocktails, wine, beer, soft drinks, juice and water.

Word in the ear: Tsufit: “It doesn’t really matter. I suppose it might be different in Jerusalem, which is a much more conservative place. But it’s each to one’s own home anyway. It’s not like I hang the [gay] pride flag from my window or color my door with a rainbow. We just live our lives like anyone else.”

In my spiritual doggy bag: That even in a place and time where everything seems to be charged with massive meaning, sometimes people just want to celebrate and live.

Random quote: A female guest, at the group of religious men who arrived after the ceremony: “NOW you come?”

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