On Saturday, as news of the devastating Hamas onslaught swept through Israeli news and social media channels and the Israel Defense Forces called for massive reservist mobilization, Rivka and Michael canceled their wedding scheduled for Sunday night.
“When we heard the news and sirens and understood there was something bigger going on here, we each understood that the wedding wouldn’t be happening according to the original plan,” said Rivka.
The couple, both religious, were following all traditional Jewish wedding rituals, including not seeing or speaking to each other for a week prior to the wedding.
As the terrifying news swirled around them, Michael, a yeshiva student pursuing as master’s in national security and terrorism studies at Bar Ilan University, called Rivka after Shabbat ended to let her know he was being called up.
“We decided that he’ll go if he’s needed,” said Rivka, a master’s student in psychology.
They sent a message to all 430 guests, telling them the wedding was postponed for the moment.
The next morning, Michael called Rikva to say that his commander would allow him to leave so he could get married on Sunday night, as planned.
“We thought that there’s an importance to having the wedding when we’d planned, that it could offer a kind of empowerment for the nation, particularly now when Israel is in such pain,” said Rivka.
They reflected on the tremendous grief and loss in the country, as the number of dead and wounded kept rising, and whether it would make sense to celebrate amidst that suffering.
In the end, they decided to get married with a small, modest gathering of close family and friends, according to the strictures of the Home Front Command and the sense of mourning throughout the country.
Aaron and Tamar Greene, 23 and 21, newly wed since Monday, had the same thought.
The two were supposed to marry on Wednesday in a long-planned ceremony with more than 300 guests, including many from abroad. Aaron Greene moved with his family from the US to Israel six years ago, and Tamar Fest, now Greene, immigrated with her family from Australia two and a half years ago.
When Aaron was called up Saturday night for reserve duty, he and Tamar decided against postponing their wedding.
“We said we can hopefully spread some light and happiness,” said Tamar. “We’ll let Hamas know they’re never going to win.”
“My rabbi said ‘you don’t postpone a joyous event,'” said Aaron.
Greene and his two brothers — one in active service in Ramallah and the other called up for reserve duty — returned for the wedding that took place on Aaron’s parents’ balcony in their Jerusalem apartment complex, with catering taken care of by Tamar’s sister and brother-in-law.
“It was so special,” said Tamar. “There were so many different emotions,” not to mention sirens that went off during the ceremony, briefly sending all the guests into a safe room.
As the newly wedded Greenes danced to celebrate in the courtyard of the apartment complex, strangers heard the music and came and danced with them.
“They came because they’d heard about it,” said Tamar.
Like Aaron and Tamar, Michael and Rivka moved their wedding to a new location, this one a small community room in Nofei Prat, just outside Ma’ale Adumim.
When Rivka left her parents’ home dressed in her wedding finery, her ultra-Orthodox neighbors danced her down the street.
It wasn’t the only impromptu wedding that took place this week in Nofei Prat.
Another couple, Maor and Gal Peretz, spontaneously married Monday night in their neighbor’s backyard, with singer Ishay Ribo performing several songs for the newlyweds, a surprise gift from the groom’s mother’s hairdresser.
Their neighbor, Yossi Zer, offered to host in his spacious backyard.
Ribo isn’t the only singer ready to perform at last-minute weddings. Ivri Lider sang in Petah Tikva for Shani and Nitzan, who were supposed to celebrate with more than 400 friends and family, but instead married at a local synagogue with their family and Lider under the chuppah.
Actor and singer Ran Danker also accompanied a couple down the aisle in Petah Tikva, singing to Yishai and Talia who married on Tuesday, before Yishai, a reservist, returned to the front.
At Rivka and Michael’s wedding ceremony, they recited a prayer over the state of Israel and the army.
“The whole wedding was just emotional,” she said. “It was a celebration for everyone and we celebrated much more than our wedding, we held each other, trying to be strong despite the pain.”
By Tuesday, Michael was back with his unit, and Rivka was at her parents’.
Aaron Greene hasn’t yet returned to his unit.
His commander told him to enjoy the week after the wedding, with dinner held each night to celebrate the new couple, including reciting the seven blessings meant to mark the start of their new life together.
“My commander said, ‘Get married, and we’ll speak afterwards,” said Aaron.
“Everyone’s messaging us,” said Tamar, “telling us that the wedding inspired them and spread happiness. That’s special to us.”
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