We had an amazing day yesterday filled with smachot (‘simchas’/happy occurrences/etc) which, again, brought our lives here into focus. The two smachot were on the opposite ends of the Israeli cultural spectrum, which made it all the more interesting.
We started the day at a brit milah for our friends’ newborn son. Erez Yoseph Shai Blendis was brought into the Covenenant of Avraham Avinu surrounded by loving family and friends (and five older siblings). It was a beautiful event, as all britot are, and we count ourselves lucky to have become friendly with Erez’ parents since they moved to the yishuv last summer. Like us, the Blendis’s are English speaking olim from North America and, not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of the people who were fortunate enough to attend the brit were also native English speakers (and by ‘overwhelming majority’ I mean well over 90%). Bagels and other typical brit food were enjoyed by all and we were all thrilled to welcome another Jewish neshama into the world, especially here in Israel.
The rest of the day went by as days typically do–work, school, etc. Then in the evening we quickly showered and changed to run off to another simcha, this time to the wedding of Ro’i Ta’asan and Morit Ron. Ro’i is the second son of our across the street neighbors and former landlords, Yoram and Michal, and we were thrilled to share in the family’s simcha. Unlike the Blendis’s the Ta’asans and the Rons are not native English speakers; in fact, they are all native Israelis. So, while we spent the morning with a group of Israelis who were almost all like us, we spent the evening with a group of Israelis who we hope our kids will be like. We were among the very small handful (probably less then 20 people total out of over 500 present) who were English speakers. The Ta’asan family, originally from Yemen, is a family of 9 children. As if this weren’t enough, they took in twin foster children about four years ago and are raising them along with their own. They are lovely boys who really needed a good influence and they have become good friends with our oldest two. This is the type of people the Ta’asans are – amazing. They are an incredible family filled with a great ruach (spirit) that emanates from their home.
Ro’i and Yoram were absolutely glowing when we arrived at the wedding hall at Kibbutz Tzora and the glow did not leave their faces for the rest of the evening. Every wedding is a beautiful, moving event and, at least in our experience, the Israeli wedding has a special uniqueness that sets it apart from the average wedding we were used to in America, but this wedding stood out even from the other weddings we have attended since our Aliyah. Part of it surely stems from the Ta’asans themselves. Just last summer, during the war in Lebanon, we watched as Yoram and Michal struggled to cope. All three of their older boys were fighting in Lebanon simultaneously. Ro’i and his younger brother Matan (or better known as ‘the Big Matan’ in our house) both serve in Duvedevan, a special elite unit of the paratroopers, quite literally the best of the best. At the outset of the fighting, I was asking Yoram, generally a jovial and happy man, how the boys were doing and where they were. His response was something that sticks with me to this very day. He became very quiet, told me that he and Michal hadn’t been able to sleep in days and that all three of their boys (including the oldest brother Elad, who was called to serve as well) were fighting in Lebanon. Yoram then said pleadingly, ‘this isn’t right that sons should have to fight the same war that their fathers fought over 20 years before’. As you can guess, like many in his generation, Yoram fought in Lebanon in the early ’80’s in what is now being called the First Lebanon War. And here his sons were, years later, risking their lives for the same war. During those days, our boys drew pictures to encourage Yoram and Michal. They brought them over and their house had a strange feel to it. It was like a home on edge – waiting every minute for the other shoe to drop. You could feel the house exhale as the boys all returned home – it was an incredibly tense time.
Here we were, only 7 months later, and the mood of the family was now wrapped in absolute joy. The wedding hall was filled with friends and army buddies, many still in their military uniforms with their distinctive red berets tucked neatly onto their shoulders, their signature brown boots and M-16’s on their backs. Baruch HaShem, all of their boys made it through the war intact and healthy and now they were coming together to celebrate a new Jewish family being born. But, I think it was more than that…I think they were celebrating our continued survival in our homeland, the one Jewish state in the world and their small part in helping to build and defend our country.
You can really feel what life here is all about when you see a soldier dancing with school age glee at his friend’s wedding. The emotions people have in this country are so palpable and fierce as we fight to survive in the same breath that we celebrate, love and rejoice. Now we just have to hope that Erez Yosef Shai doesn’t have to fight the same war that the Ta’asans and countless other families have had to fight twice.