Opinion

The Wedding That Allowed Me to Escape the Israeli Bullshit

It won’t be long before a squad of armed vigilantes sponsored by the state positions itself by every wedding hall, demanding the couple prove they're Jewish

A couple at their wedding.
Gil Cohen-Magen

Last week, I attended the wedding of a couple who are good friends of mine. I find weddings disgusting in principle, because they turn love into a financial transaction. I don’t understand how you can look your prospective bride in the eye after the two of you have sat and figured out with a calculator the cost of steak in mushroom sauce, combined with appetizer, parve dessert and deejay. This is what you dreamed of when you first met? When you kissed and made love on the beach that summer night?

In the past, a man purchased a bride with a dowry of 100 camels, 200 sheep and a few ounces of gold. Today, bride and groom merchandise their intimacy in the presence of a crowd of people who were invited in spite of themselves. After all, they didn’t want to be there; for them, this is punishment. They pay a few hundred shekels for bad food and dubious company, in order to affirm the passion of the bride and groom for hefty checks and narcissistic attention. Every wedding in Israel is a victory for bureaucracy and a defeat for romance.

But the wedding last week was a moving event. “Moving” in the original sense of the word, before overuse killed its meaning. It was a wedding devoid of self-importance. The couple had been married in a civil ceremony in New York and had a cute baby girl a few months later. They wanted to mark the sequence of events back home festively – not especially modestly, but not bombastically, either. Somewhere in between. The buffet included steamed rolls made of white flour, puffy, soft-textured, on the brink of spongy. Not a lot of chewing was needed; they were boring and consensual. They didn’t stick in the throat or upset anyone. Sort of like most people in this day and age.

There was no rabbi. There was no need for one. The sadistic religious establishment exists only for those who enjoy being humiliated and spat upon. The marriage ceremony was performed by a gay friend in a simple T-shirt over which he wore an open pink, button-down shirt. He read out the Christian version of the wedding vows in English, like in romantic comedies, and asked if the couple agreed to have and to hold each other, “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” They nodded an “I do” and told each other in Hebrew, “I love you,” as the baby cried hysterically in the background. The groom smashed a wine glass, the baby screamed, and it was so beautiful and romantic.

If you’re going to get married, do it only after having children. The wedding itself is meaningless. People promise each other all kinds of things and then break their promises. A child is a true commitment. It’s not a vacuous declaration. When you get married after having become a parent, you are effectively asserting: I am not pure and make no pretense to be pure. I’ve sinned and sullied myself in real life. I am without idealism. I have no fantasies or illusions of perfection.

Too bad the baby didn’t throw up on the bride’s white wedding dress. That could have been the perfect image for long-term couplehood.

Illustration.
Sharon Fadida

Some of the guests arrived via an air convoy from abroad, where they’ve lived in recent years. Their partners aren’t necessarily Jews. That is, they’re necessarily not. They’ve intermingled well among the world’s peoples. The Jewish race theory is of no interest to them. They don’t live in Israel anymore, and they don’t work for Naftali Bennett and his cohorts. They are not part of the Israeli obsession for purity of blood and race. They are exilic Jews because they did not find their place here, and at the present rate they won’t have anywhere to return to, either. Nor do they want to. They have it good where they are.

A week after the wedding, six Be’er Sheva residents were arrested on suspicion of attacking Arabs with knives, clubs and iron rods. Reason: “to prevent assimilation.” It’s not far-fetched to assume that gangs like this will only multiply. It won’t be long before a squad of armed vigilantes sponsored by the state positions itself by every wedding hall. They’ll ask the groom to lower his pants, and will demand some sort of notarized genealogical confirmation from the bride. If the couple prove their Jewishness, they will be allowed to wed. If not, they’ll be beaten to a pulp.

The wedding became increasingly bacchanalian as it progressed. A temporary autonomous region was formed, detached from present-day Israel – from which we were happy to disconnect even for a few hours. The participants, veterans of late-1990s and 2000s parties, know how to have a good time, if you get my drift. They exchanged the club culture for the wedding industry, and soon we’ll start growing bald at bar mitzvahs and funerals.

The music played by the deejay wasn’t bad. No Mizrahi pop hits, for a change. Not that I have anything against Mizrahi pop. On the contrary: Mizrahi pop fomented one of the most important social and cultural revolutions in Israel’s history. But we can get along without hits by Kobi Peretz and Dudu Aharon for one evening. The heterogeneous crowd at the event – Ashkenazim, Mizrahim, Palestinians, Americans, Europeans – didn’t need to be pandered to by way of the broadest common denominator.

Here’s a revolution: Mizrahi pop is already the big mama of the mainstream, and as such, we have a right to abhor it. Not on racist grounds, of course, but on aesthetic ones. And there’s too much bad, dumb and slapdash Mizrahi pop. So we danced to the music of wordless electronic music, which would not remind us who we were and where we came from. We wanted to forget this screwed-up place. We’d earned the right to forget.

And forget we did. We hugged one another, whispered words of love to one another. For a few hours, we freed ourselves from all the bullshit that occupies us every day. How sweet it was. The older people and the elderly went to sleep, and we shed all the things that cause us distress. All the sickos and brainwashed and fundamentalists and misanthropes and xenophobes and proponents of violence and force and avengers, and who’s Hezbollah and who’s national-religious – and who gives a damn, anyway. Brain and ears were plugged. We didn’t hear Miri Regev’s howls. Our eyes were bedazzled with the dance-floor lights and not with Bibi’s grotesque hair colors. And gone too were the shadows of the imbeciles of the populist right. Who do they think they are that they have to be the stars of moments of pleasure, too? They exist only in the nightmare of the everyday and on Facebook. I looked at all the people who were dancing around me, and I thought to myself that it was with them I wanted to live for all time.

At 4 A.M., I went outside and my eyes were opened. I remembered.