Our son Daniel (aka Lt Ledeen, USMC, based in Okinawa) is in the midst of week-long events that will culminate in the wedding ceremony on Thursday afternoon here in Jerusalem. He is marrying Natalie Almog, a woman born and raised in Houston. They both attended Rice University, met and fell in love there, and so here we are: Daniel, daughter Simone, son Gabriel, Barbara and me, delighting in fabulous sunny weather in one of the world’s truly magical cities.
Why Jerusalem? Because Natalie’s dad, Avner, grew up on a kibbutz along with seven — or is it eight — siblings, and while he went to America and married a Texan woman, Rose, the others stayed here and so the bulk of the bride’s family are in Israel. The elders came to Israel from Morocco in the forties, part of the huge but rarely remarked exodus of North African Jews after the Second World War. So this wedding is very different from the typical North or Central European ceremony most Americans are used to. It’s Sephardic, not Ashkenazi, and it’s very Moroccan. Last night we participated in the Henna Ceremony, at which bride, groom, and immediate family members dress in traditional robes (and for me, a big fez), and put a circular patch of Henna on the palm of their right hand. That mark will stay with us for several weeks (I hope TSA won’t ask a lot of pointed questions when we come back). It wards off the evil eye, and initiates wild music, dancing, ululating and of course eating and drinking.
Lots of noise. No quiet conversation, if you see what I mean. Very little sitting. An incredible intensity. And it’s just the beginning.
In the next few days, there will be ritual baths for bride and groom, a formal marriage contract negotiated by me and Avner, a fast for Daniel, and then the ceremony.