“WHAT’S AN ISRAELI WEDDING LIKE?”

I decided to throw in a quick blog update before my big exciting “I’ve been in Israel for one year!” blog (coming in just a few weeks!). But for now, I have hit some other pretty cool Israeli milestones. Thanks to Alon, I have attended my first Israeli wedding (list item #75) and my first Israeli Bat-Mitzvah. We have also gone to Gan HaShlosha National Park (list item #66) and swam in the Jordan River (list item #12).

I had been back in America for a bit since my last blog post, visiting Boston and Maine. I have traveled back to America three times prior to this since moving to Israel, but this is the first time I really noticed how foreign I felt in my old home. I noticed things and couldn’t help but think, “Ugh, Americans…”. Meanwhile, I am very much one of them but after almost a year in Israel, I have really started to notice how much I’ve changed…how Israeli I have become. I am actually quite happy about this because I moved here partly because I find the people so wonderful, so to think that I am becoming one of them is a nice thought. This is not to say I didn’t enjoy my visit back in New England (in fact I loved it), but I very much missed Israel in my two weeks. I think it sometimes takes leaving to realize just how at home you feel in a place, and that place for me is now Israel.

When I returned to the Holy Land, I went with Alon to my first Israeli wedding. It was totally and completely wonderful. I think American weddings are fun, but this was an all out celebration. Things seemed less planned/perfected (there is no such thing as a rehearsal dinner here!), which seemed to lead to less stress about the day. People just enjoyed every moment. Right when the groom steps on the glass, the couple is rushed by all their closest friends and family hugging them and wishing them well. It’s quite a scene. Things after the ceremony are even less structured. (As a side note…speaking of less structured…you also do not have to send back an RSVP in the mail, nor tell the bride and groom if you are bringing a guest, or what kind of food you want to eat.) After the ceremony, you move to eating/dancing, just like an American wedding. But essentially, you can eat and/or dance whenever you want to. If you are not at the table when the food comes out, you can sit down and get it later. If you want to go dance after eating just a bit of your appetizer and they clear your plate, you can just order another one. Everything in an American wedding has a time and place…Israeli weddings are more about doing what you feel like doing, and they will work around it. It’s pretty remarkable because in my mind, this sounds disastrous, but it works so well. Also at an Israeli wedding, when they say open bar…they seriously mean it. Trays of shots are passed around to all the tables and a waiter will walk around with more shots on the dance floor. It was like nothing I’d ever seen, but it was so much fun. It all seemed so effortless and free-spirited. I feel like this is also everything I love about Israeli people, just embodied in a wedding celebration.

On top of the wedding, Alon also took me to his niece’s Bat Mitzvah. (Fun fact for my American readers: Bar/Bat Mitzvahs are celebrated at 12 years of age here in Israel, not 13!) The party was pretty amazing. It was elegant and fun all at once. It was outside, complete with open bar, face painting, flower crafting (into headbands or bracelets) and a dance floor. It’s always nice to see life outside of Tel Aviv and this was no exception. Alon’s brother lives in a neighborhood near Ashdod, which is one of the first neighborhoods Ive really seen here, and I loved it. I met lots of family and lifelong friends, which for me is both incredibly exciting, but also a painful little reminder that my Hebrew is not where it should be. (Hello, Duolingo, old friend! I’ve missed you!) I think being in situations like these reminds me that there is much more to Israel than my Tel Aviv bubble where I can easily get by with my minimal Hebrew. So…stepping it up from now on! Blog readers as my witness!! Daily Hebrew lessons from here on out.

Besides all of this excitement, we decided to have a relaxing weekend at Gan HaShlosha National Park and the Jordan River. We drove from the south of Israel in Kfar Aza all the way to the north near the Sea of Galilee. We first stopped at Gan Hashlosha, which is a park famous for its hot springs…well a little too famous if you ask us. It was PACKED. Every Israeli had the same idea as us on Saturday and we ended up surrounded by people. We did hop in but quickly decided to head somewhere slightly less populated and made our way to the Jordan River.  I have to say, I really love the north. The sea, and the greenery, followed by cows grazing on the side of the road, makes for a perfect scene. We went to a small section of the Jordan River and just relaxed, sunbathed on the rocks and went for a swim. This time there were just 3 other groups of people, making it much less crowded. It was such a peaceful moment, just laying there in the Jordan looking out at the Israeli scenery. Those are the moments that really make me stop and appreciate this place I am so lucky to call home (and the people that experience it with me!).

So, I’ve had a wonderful return to Israel and crossed off three list items in a very short time! Keep sending more my way, so the adventures continue!

Stay tuned for my ONE YEAR blog!!! Coming to a computer near you in just 2.5 weeks!

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