n WHEN Chamutal Chwat married Ariel Malik in Jerusalem last Thursday, her wedding was different in many respects than those of her two older sisters. The bride, one of 12 siblings, is the daughter of American-born Menucha and Ezra Chwat, who were among the founders of Carmei Tzur; the groom is the son of Rachel and Binyamin Malik.
The unique tenor of the wedding may have had something to do with the fact that there were special circumstances surrounding the event, as well as certain uncommon customs practised by the groom's family. The special circumstance was that a couple of months before the wedding, the groom was involved in a serious car accident and spent a relatively long time in hospital recuperating.
The bride, who had sat by his bedside for weeks, was overjoyed that the wedding was taking place as planned. In fact, she was so happy that she hardly sat on the bridal throne and spent most of the time prior to the ceremony dancing with her relatives and friends. This is very unusual at an Orthodox wedding, where the bride usually spends all the time on the bridal throne, often in prayer and meditation.
When the groom was led toward the bride by his father and the bride's father, he hobbled slightly but walked unaided toward her to cover her face with her veil. Under the bridal canopy, the two kept exchanging loving glances, sang bridal songs along with the guests, and swayed to the music. Breaking the glass in memory of the destruction of the Temple is not enough in the Malik family. The groom's face was also smeared with ashes. Another custom not always seen at weddings was that the rabbi instructed the groom to take a large prayer shawl and to enfold himself and his new bride in it. Aside from the symbolism of building a new house in Israel, the custom also dates back to biblical times when Boaz covered Ruth with the corner of his garment as a sign that he would protect her and provide for her.
Under the huppa the groom, who was noticeably in physical pain, made a superhuman effort to break the glass - and succeeded on the first try. Guests are always pleased when this happens, but in this particular case they went wild and began ululating in delight and throwing rice. Later, despite the difficulty in doing so, the groom insisted on dancing, and did so without a cane.
n SEVERAL MEMBERS of the diplomatic community showed up at Shalva last week at the invitation of Captain Gerry Casey of the Irish Defense Forces working with United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO). Shalva provides effective programs and services for children with disabilities. Casey and his wife, Theresa, have a two-and-half year old daughter Rachel, who spent a year participating in Shalva's Me & My Mommy program. Both Rachel and her parents made friends that may well last a lifetime, even though the family is scheduled to return to Dublin in January. Joining the Caseys on a tour of Shalva were Irish Ambassador Breifne O'Reilly, guests from UNTSO and members of the diplomatic corps representing the United States, Finland, Venezuela, Uganda and more. Several of the guests are stationed in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Gaza.
Counting spouses and children, well over 100 guests joined the tour and enjoyed a buffet lunch while being entertained by the Shalva band. Casey had come on an exploratory tour of Israel because a doctor in Ireland had urged him and his wife to take Rachel, the youngest of their four children - who was born with Down Syndrome and a severe heart defect - to a warm climate. Once in Israel, he had been directed to Shalva. There, he discovered that Rachel would receive far better and more intensive treatment than she had received in Ireland.
It was yet another example of every cloud having a silver lining. Had Rachel not needed Shalva's services, the Caseys would most certainly not have interacted with Israelis to the extent that they have, nor would they have made as many Israeli friends. Moreover, they are returning to Ireland much better equipped to deal with Rachel's problems than they were before. Commenting on what he had seen and learned about Shalva, O'Reilly said: "If I had to bring one message to the world after visiting with the impressive people at Shalva, I'd say that this is a magical world of hope."
n JERUSALEM MAY soon enjoy an influx of tourists and entertainers from Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. Hilik Bar, who holds the tourism portfolio on the Jerusalem City Council, was recently in Georgia for Tbilisoba, an annual celebration that can in some respects be compared to Jerusalem Day. Bar met with several of the city's officials, including Mayor Gigi Ugulava, and discussed a variety of issues, such as tourism and cultural exchanges, on which Jerusalem and Tbilisi could cooperate. Bar noted that Georgian artisans and entertainers had participated in the annual Jerusalem Arts and Crafts festival last August.
n FOR THE third consecutive year, the Menta chain of stores in Delek gas stations sponsored the annual Wheels of Love Bike Ride across Israel, which gives bike riders a great opportunity to see the country while raising money for the Jerusalem-based Alyn Pediatric and Adolescent Rehabilitation Center. Some 600 cyclists from 10 countries participated in this year's ride. Delek Retail CEO Haim Almoznino said that Menta was happy to be a sponsor for such a worthy cause which serves not only the community of disabled children but also helps to create social awareness of people with special needs.