For the five summers Howard and I have volunteered in the Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi, we have stayed in the volunteer apartment supported by our the Israeli Partnership of TIPS (Tucson, Israel, Phoenix, and Seattle.) Our neighbors here, Aliza and Haim Elimelech, have been incredibly kind to us. On July 2nd, their oldest son Oshri got married. Six days before, they had a special party when henna was painted on hands, legs (of men), etc.
These are pictures I took of two relatives' hands, 4 days later. It sounded fantastic but we didn't hear about it until after it had occurred, which was the day we arrived in Israel.
Two days before the wedding, the bride went to the mikveh, to be dunked in the water there to gain ritual purity before the wedding. Most go the day before, but she was allowed to go two days before because her eyes turn red from the water and she wanted a day for them to recover.
The neighbor invited me to go with her, and I was the only non-family member in attendance, but the participants welcomed me enthusiastically and were very warm. Most there were from the bride's side of the family. This event was a bit different than many because the bride's family is from India and had a few different rituals. (There are many different East Indian Jews. This family is Bene Israel. See the Wikipedia article on Bene Israel for more information.)
We arrived at the bride's parents' home in a nice section of Ashdod around 8:15 p.m. People were sitting around talking, and, of course, offering food. On the floor was a very cute wedding "cake" that Aliza had made a few weeks ago--of white towels. It's very creative!
Aliza, Sagit, and Aliza's younger son's girlfriend Rachel posed for a picture here.
When everyone had arrived, including the woman with the portable CD player and music, we started the walk to the mikveh.
Here in the middle is Aliza Tal-ker, the mother of the bride Sagit, leaving the building.
Here is Sagit, just outside the building, waiting for the others. She is wearing a necklace of jasmine flowers on her head that her mom put on her just before heading out.
One woman carried a special drum and another carried the CD player with both Jewish music Indian music. We sang some along the way too and cars honked as they passed us.
You can see the drum :
a bit better in this picture.
Here is a picture of the parade....of about a dozen people. (Some drove including the grandma.)
After walking over a mile, we got to the mikveh, where others greeted Sagit.
Since another bride was in the mikveh, we had to wait in the crowded lobby about 20 minutes to get started. The mikveh costs 40 shekels (about $12 US) and is used by women after childbirth as well as after their monthly cycle. (There is another mikveh for men.)
The guests went into a waiting room to chat and eat, while Sagit and her mom (and sister?) went to the mikveh. (First Aliza served the guests some food.)
Incredibly good honey dipped cookies, similar to ones I had in China town 50 years ago.
A very happy grandmother, waiting at the Mikveh.
Women usually have to cut their fingernails quite short to be able to have water touch every part, but that has stopped many young women from going to the mikveh before their wedding, so some mikvehs have become more lenient in their policies.
Before getting in the Mikveh, Sagit took off all of her clothes, make up, nail polish, etc and possibly washed again. The then dipped all the way under seven times. (The attendant, who was very nice, asked if she wanted to dip 3 or 7 times, and she chose the latter.)
After she dressed again, she came out and we all greeted her in song and cheers, hugging and kissing.
Sagit's grandmother giving her a candy of blessings. (A 3-generation picture.)
We were all given a handful of candy to use here and to give to others for them to have good luck. When Sagit came out, people gave her the candy to taste and others took bites of the same candy for good luck.
The way back seemed a lot shorter! Once back at the apartment, we were fed again. Each of the 3 feedings had different food, which was more in the style of Indian-Jewish cooking. Back at the home base, I especially liked a milk gelatinous candy with tiny shreds of pistachio in it, visible on the left back part of the picture below.
Then we listened to a presentation by a woman from Dimona on the Mitzvah of Challah. The details will be in the next blog.