Goldie Natkin spent months planning her summer wedding. Everything went smoothly until war forced her family to flee their home in Safed, weeks before the big day.
"We've been waiting a long time for this day so it's really very disorienting not being able to be totally focused on the simcha (joyous occasion)," said Goldie's mother, Devorah. "The poor kallah (bride) had to be involved in figuring out where her family would spend their nights before her wedding."
Goldie Natkin had planned to spend her last weeks as a single woman in Safed, where the Natkin family has lived for 26 years. Instead, the city has been turned into a battleground, destroying the bride's chance for some much needed rest and relaxation with friends and family. Goldie was busy cooking meals and taking care of her family instead of enjoying the getaway she craved.
"It was really frustrating," she said. "I was really looking forward to my last few weeks of singledom up north in Safed, my favorite place in the world, with my family, and some girl-time with my friends at a bed-and-breakfast." The rain of Katyusha rockets changed everything.
"Within moments your life is a completely different reality," said Devorah Natkin.
After she sent her children to Jerusalem for safety, Devorah Natkin, a social worker at a hospital for mentally disabled adults, spent a weekend in the hospital's safe room with 13 clients and her son, Yossie, who has Down's syndrome. She didn't leave until she was sure the clients were moved to a safer location.
"Everyone was shocked and scared," she said. "The Katyushas falling close by sounded like a shattering blast, shaking the safe-room windows. The whistles and crashes we heard from the Katyushas were amazing. The closest Katyusha fell right next to a gas station. No one could quite believe this was happening in Safed, since everyone always says nothing happens in Safed."
After Devorah Natkin joined her children several days later, she recalled the emotional stress she had undergone. "In Safed I felt an enormous, overwhelming fatigue - how are we going to go on with this? Is my life ever going to be the way it was before?"
After 29 years in Israel, she is no stranger to missiles. When Scuds fell during the Gulf War, she saw US Patriot missiles blow them up in the air.
After they fled their home, the Natkin family moved around, getting separated several times before they were finally given a home in Jerusalem's Old City. They have stayed in the Jewish Quarter for the last two weeks. "We're really blessed, it's a wonderful place," Devorah Natkin said.
Uprooting their lives has brought on a minor case of amnesia for the younger Natkins. "A few weeks before the wedding my sister asked me if the wedding was in two and a half weeks or three and a half weeks," said Goldie Natkin, 28, and the eldest of five children. "They had no clue what was going on, so it kind of made it a bit tougher."
When the situation calmed down, Devorah Natkin was able to return to "wedding mode." Only then did she realize her dress was in Safed. "All hell broke loose and my dress was at the dressmaker, so during a two day cease-fire a friend of the family got the key to the dressmaker's and went through all the bags in the shop, but to no avail," she said. Not wanting to endanger anyone, she gave up on the dress and borrowed one from a friend. Luckily, it fit her like a glove.
The wedding was held just outside Jerusalem on Wednesday, which was Tu Be'av - the Jewish holiday of love.
"The greater the darkness the greater the light," said Devorah Natkin. "People just want so much to give that they went out of their way, donating meals, makeup, catering and hotels... Jewish communities from the US even gave us money for the wedding."
Some guests slept on mattresses in a yeshiva in Kfar Chabad, some invitations had to be delivered by phone instead of by mail, and bus transportation was organized from three different parts of Israel since everyone was scattered all over.
Despite it all, the mood at the wedding was very joyous.