February 19-21, 2009
Pnina and I got married in Seattle in August 2008. A lot of our friends and family from Israel couldn’t make it out to Seattle to celebrate with us (understandably). So, when we planned our round-the-world trip we decided to stop in Israel roughly half way through to have a second wedding reception of sorts, mostly to get a chance to spend some time with all these people.
When we started the trip we still didn’t have any concrete plans for the celebration. In the end we had three separate gatherings from Feb 19 to the 21st.
Pnina’s mom, Arlene, has three sisters. One of them, Nancy, is religious, which means that she cannot drive on Saturday (the Sabbath). We were planning to have our reception at the kibbutz on Saturday, which was convenient for most other guests but not for Nancy’s family. So, Nancy invited us to visit her at her home a couple of days before.
Now, Nancy’s family lives in a West Bank settlement called Tapuah. This is one of those settlements you may have heard about in the news, related to the shaky peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The “two state” solution calls for a separate Palestinian state that includes the West Bank and Gaza. The West Bank is controlled by Fatah, lead by Mahmoud Abbas, while Gaza is controlled by Hamas. Abbas has stated repeatedly that Israel should pull Jewish settlements out of the West Bank, or at the very least stop expansion. Israel’s government has changed its policy over the years. At times it promoted expansion by giving tax incentives to Jews who chose to move to the West Bank, and at other times it withdrew these incentives. Even without the incentives, land out there is pretty cheap. But regardless, the people who choose to live there do so for ideological reasons, not for economic reasons.
Pnina and I are on the liberal-end of the political spectrum and we’re not particularly religious. That means that in general we support making concessions to the Palestinian Authority if it can lead to any kind of peace. Nancy’s family obviously sits at the other end of the spectrum. Before we set out for Tapuah, Pnina told me to just avoid any and all political or religious discussions. I was a little nervous heading there, wondering if conversation would be stunted because politics and religion would be the big elephants in the room. But in the end that wasn’t the case at all.
Nancy’s family is huge, even by Strasbourger standards 🙂 Pnina can remember the names of all Nancy’s kids (10 of them) and their significant others, but she’s lost when it comes to all their kids (about 30 of them). As for me, I was completely overwhelmed. Arlene took charge and made name tags for everyone, and that helped somewhat. As you can imagine, with all these kids running around it was a very lively atmosphere. Also the food was good. There were some awkward moments, like the few times I tried to shake hands with the women there until I learned that a religious Jewish woman can’t come into contact with any man but her husband. But these hiccups were understood, forgiven, and forgotten quickly.
This was probably the biggest dining table I’d seen in a home, but it was still no match for the crowd – people occupied various corners of the house:
Ed, Adi, and Suzy:
My dad, Adi, has one brother (Dani) and one sister (Efrat, aka Effi). Effi wanted to have a small Abileah family reunion, and that Friday night happened to be the best opportunity. Unfortunately my uncle (her husband) Yair, was out of town, doing some research in Ethiopia. But in all other ways the evening was fantastic. In true Effi style everything was immaculate – the food, the service, the ambiance.
Effi’s kids were all there. The eldest daughter, my cousin Yael, got married last summer, just a couple of weeks before Pnina and I. This was our first chance to meet her husband, Eyal. He recently finished his law degree, while Yael is still working on her degree. They mentioned that they’re thinking about traveling to China in the spring, so we talked about meeting out there, but in the end their plans fell through (Eyal landed a good job and they needed him to start right away).
The two younger siblings were there too. Alon is nearing the end of his extended military service. Karen is into medical school, and she was there with her boyfriend. We also had some family from Jerusalem: Beni, Ruti, and Dafna. We had Ron and Marlene from San Francisco, and Mookie from Montreal. Plus we had Pnina’s parents and my parents. It was a good opportunity to welcome the Strasbourgers into our family, and to catch up with everyone.
Chatting in the kitchen – Beni, Ron, Suzy, Dafna, Ruti:
The three cousins – Yael, Alon, Karen:
Pnina’s parents – Ed & Arlene:
Our host Effi in charge of a wonderful evening:
The Gal Ed Reception
And the main celebration took place at kibbutz Gal Ed on Saturday. While Pnina and I did nearly all the planning for our wedding in Seattle, we hardly lifted a finger for this party. The reason we were able to get by so lazily is that our friend, Lynne, ran around like a madwoman doing everything. Lynne really likes to plan events and, even more, to bake cakes – it’s her main hobby. So while most of us think of party-planning as a bit of a chore, Lynne revels in it, and she’s really good at it too.
The party was a very relaxed affair. I don’t think anyone wore a suit. We all gathered in the club room at Gal Ed for a buffet-style meal. After a few hours of eating and chatting, we all migrated upstairs where we had a projector and a screen set up. We showed a quick video of the celebration in Seattle, and Pnina and I did a geeky Powerpoint presentation recapping our trip so far and mentioning our favorite places. Also, Pnina’s friend, Gal, who came back from a trip in New Zealand just in time to attend, stood up and did a really nice toast. Then people trickled out and we had a second seating open to all kibbutz guests.
BTW, we weren’t just lazy about planning this event, we also failed to take a single picture! Here are a few photos Shahaf’s dad (Adi) took at the event…