The Miracle of Two Families in Israel
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
I am going to a wedding tonight! That is not such an unusual occurrence as we have many friends and Jewish weddings tend to be very large. I am at an age when most of my friends’ children are married and are now marrying off their last child. But this week alone, we have two weddings and in two weeks we have another.
But there is something about tonight’s wedding that symbolizes so much about what the modern State of Israel is all about and what the ingathering of the exiles really means in our everyday lives.
The family of the groom is a family I have known since I was born. The groom’s father grew up with me in Cleveland. He is two years older than me but his younger sister is my age and we were in school together in Cleveland from pre-school through 12th grade. Their mother is one of my mother’s closest friends and their father was the rabbi of our synagogue in Cleveland and our family’s personal religious advisor. I know the groom’s siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins — the entire family and they are a very large extended family!
The groom grew up in my own community of Karnei Shomron where I was able to maintain a friendship with his parents that began in childhood. In addition to our two families, though, who came from Cleveland, there are at least 10 other families in my community who originate from Cleveland, of which three are my siblings. And each of these families have children and grandchildren, some of which have settled in Karnei Shomron as well. Some of these families have children who actually married children of other Cleveland families. For example, my niece married a young man from Karnei Shomron whose grandmother was in school with my father in Cleveland from 1st grade through high school. And these grandparents were born in 1926 so they go back awhile! Today they have 3 shared great-grandchildren.
So much for the American side of the family at tonight’s wedding. The bride also grew up in Karnei Shomron and the young couple have known each other for years. But her family originated in Yemen. Her parents were born in Israel but their older siblings and parents were brought from Yemen to Israel in the early years of the State. They came to Israel from the desert of Yemen, with nothing but the clothes on their back. They spoke Arabic and a Jewish dialect of Yemenite Arabic but they read and studied and prayed in Hebrew. They were devoted to G-d and to the Bible and were shocked to discover so many secular, western Jews in Israel when they got here. They had to move centuries in technology and culture but were among the most steadfast in faith of any community that came to Israel.
The younger Yemenite Jews assimilated easily into modern Israel but they married other Yemenite Jews. The bride’s father is one of the leaders of the local Yemenite synagogue and a talented electrician. When we first moved to Karnei Shomron in our newly completed home, Manny was there to fix all the electricity that needed fixing, to add sockets, install light fixtures and whatever we needed. He is my sister’s downstairs neighbor and we see the family often.
The groom’s family are active members of one of the Ashkenazi synagogues — specifically the one that was founded by American families who had made aliyah. It is a synagogue where English-speaking families are able to congregate together and continue speaking English in Bible classes and social gatherings. It is a perfect place for those who have recently made aliyah or for those who still like to pray in the American style they were accustomed to.
But tonight the bride and groom, from Yemenite and American backgrounds respectively, will be joined in marriage and will build their own home and begin their own family that will be neither American nor Yemenite. It will be Israeli. It will be Jewish. And it will encompass the rich traditions and customs that both of these young people bring from their homes that are suffused with faith and love.
And this is what Israel is all about. We have come from the four corners of the earth to build one nation, one country. Our enemies say the Jews should go back to Poland. But we are not from Poland, nor are we from the United States nor from Yemen. We are from the Land of Israel. “Then the Lord your G-d will restore your fortunes and take you back in love. He will bring you together again from all the peoples where the Lord your G-d has scattered you. Even if your outcasts are at the ends of the world, from there the Lord your G-d will gather you and from there He will fetch you. And the Lord your G-d will bring you to the land that your fathers possessed and you shall possess it. And He will make you more prosperous and more numerous than your fathers” (Deuteronomy 30:3-5)
G-d has kept his promise and has done all this and more. These two families will be joined in marriage tonight but before that, they were joined in a common goal and experience, of building the Land of Israel, of returning to the Land from the far reaches of the globe, of participating in the fulfillment of G-d’s promises and prophecies.
Shalom from the Biblical Heartland,
Sondra Oster Baras