had the pleasure once again to visit my second Home, Israel.When I land at Lod Airport, I know
where I’m going first – to Jerusalem, the holiest city in the world - the city
where my daughter settled 19 years ago.
warm and mushy greetings, a hearty Israeli salad, and an emotional visit to the
Kotel – the Wailing Wall, I
begin to feel comfortable in my environment and pick up my Israeli cell phone
to dial a very familiar phone number – the Children’s Home, in Netanya.
Runes, the Programs Director is a very busy lady. I understand that I am not
priority #1 on her list.
I know she’s always helping someone before she can engage my journalistic
curiosities and me. Now Bracha’s prime concern is for the Home’s newest bride, Malky
G., whose wedding was soon approaching.
I rushed home from last minute shopping and some quality time with my
hired a babysitter, and began to prepare for our drive to Ramat Gan, where the
wedding would take place. The drive was smooth despite Israel’s perpetual ‘rush
hour’ traffic as I had flashbacks from the day I met Malky more than 7 years
ago. She was a 6th grader then, but already had presence in the Home. Her level
of maturity was high, and she was always available to comfort and help the
younger girls as they arrived at the Home. She was a perfect ‘big sister.’ Malky
and I also bonded.
towards her wedding destination, I pictured Malky in stages. First I envisioned
her in her school uniform – a navy blue A-lined skirt and a light blue cotton
shirt with her school’s insignia embroidered on the pocket. I remembered her in the Home’s
lobby, reading a storybook to a few younger housemates, who were flanked around
her on a well-used couch. I also saw an image of Malky greeting me as I once
arrived in time for the mid-day meal. She asked me, in decent English, ‘Did you
eat yet? Come upstairs to the dining room with me…we have delicious meat balls
today!” I smiled while passing a green sign for Ramat Gan. I could not yet
project what Malky would look like as a bride!
near the wedding hall, we parked the car a few blocks away. There were throngs of people all dressed up also about to attend a wedding in the
same catering complex. Each door was labeled with a sign of the couples’ last
names. Finally, we reached the venue of Malky and Shalom’s wedding.
is usual for Israeli weddings, there are no place cards with one’s name
succinctly spelled out in calligraphic lettering. One just looks around and recognizes familiar faces.
Where there's an empty seat, you take it. That was my case. It didn’t take a
New York minute before two ladies raised their hands and flashed their
beautifully modest smiles and asked me to sit at their table. The women were
the Home’s medical/dental appointment coordinators – two ladies who are like
mothers to the girls - their confidantes. “Here, come sit with us, we’ve saved
you a seat,” they said to me. What a welcome.
the wedding ceremony was already over, we had to wait a while until we saw the
bride and groom appear. In
the meantime, we were served Israeli salads including eggplant, red cabbage,
and pickled vegetables. The ladies made sure I had what to eat and drink. After
the outdoor chuppah, the bride and groom were whisked away to the wedding hall.
It is a custom for the bride and groom to retreat for a short while and then
join their guests a bit later.
the wait, many guests who traveled from afar arrived, including a number of
young women who were once house sisters at the Home. Today some are students in higher
education, others are already working professionals, and some are married –
attending with their babies. I noticed the camaraderie between these young
ladies – the familiarity – as they laughed while reminiscing of the years at
the Home. Many hugs, kisses and tears were exchanged amongst these
‘sisters'. I was overwhelmed as well. Yenty and Sasya, the two ladies who
saved a space for me at their table, also joined in the greeting – with great
warmth usually reserved for family members. (Read Sasya and Yenty’s profiles in this edition.)
were caught up in schmoozing when suddenly the music changed. The simcha mood
was set for the entry of the bride and groom.The anticipation and excitement was infectious. I looked
at faces surrounding me and noted tears of joy and giant smiles, and
combinations of both. Girls currently living at the Home, and those who shared
years with Malky in the past, gathered in a reception line to greet her as a
newly married woman. Standing on their tiptoes, ready to dance, the girls
cheered Malky as the Queen of the simcha.
everyone else, I was enveloped in this blissful atmosphere. Wearing my comfortable bronze
ballet flats, I joined into the dancing frenzy. Finally, Malky’s eyes and mine
made contact. I approached her in the center of the circle and we danced
together. She was radiant, in her
white matte sateen dress trimmed in lace. She appeared happier than I’d ever
seen her before!
music continued, and the food was served – roasted chicken, baked potato
wedges, peas, rice and then a selection of desserts. Videographers captured the
festivities, photographers went from table to table – happiness was documented
for beautiful memories.Then,
I noticed Malky taking a break from dancing. As she hugged girls and many young
women, I saw her lips moving, and her face serious. Coming closer, I realized she was
offering blessings of good fortune to her ‘house-sisters’ – the job of a new
bride, a solemn responsibility.
I realized, was not the 6th grader I met years back. She’s now a married woman
– prepared for her new life by the many people who made her simcha possible–
Bracha Runes, the Home’s Programs Director, a dedicated staff of counselors,
administration members, long time friends, and many who were not present…and YOU,
our dear donors and sponsors, who made this propitious event possible!
will forever be grateful for the love, the care and the FUTURE all of you
afforded her! Todah Rabbah to each and every one of you!
contribute to the Lev LaLev bridal fund, please click here!