Sarah Techiya Litman and Ariel Biegel were married Thursday evening at the elevated plaza in front of Jerusalem’s International Convention Center. As hundreds of guests crowded around the white huppah (wedding canopy), the sounds of police and ambulance sirens rose from the streets below to mingle with the music played during the ceremony.
Also heard in the plaza were various languages spoken by those gathered. Not only Israelis from all over the country, but also Jews from all over the world (including a group of 12 from a Canadian synagogue) responded to the couple’s invitation asking “everyone” to celebrate with them at their wedding, which had been postponed from its originally scheduled date of November 16.
Litman and Biegel rescheduled the wedding for Thursday night, less than two weeks since the bride’s father Rabbi Yaakov Litman, and her 18-year-old brother Netanel were shot dead in a terrorist attack as they drove on Route 60 in the southern West Bank on November 13. Other family members in the car — the mother, a 16-year-old boy and three young girls aged 11, 9 and 5 — were lightly wounded, suffering mostly from bruises and shrapnel injuries. The family had been en route to join Sarah in a Shabbat eve pre-wedding celebration.
The wedding, whose guests numbered in the thousands by the end of the evening, was broadcast live and the video below shows an edited version of the event, from the gathering of guests, the moving huppah ceremony and a few select dancing scenes.
Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, attended the wedding and in a video posted by her husband on social media, can be seen arriving at the wedding, and posing for photos with the bride and groom and their families.
בשידור חי: רעיית ראש הממשלה, הגברת שרה נתניהו, בחתונתם של שרה ליטמן ואריאל ביגל. הצטרפו עכשיו >>
Posted by Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו on Thursday, November 26, 2015
רעייתי שרה השתתפה הערב בחתונתם של שרה ואריאל. שרה ליטמן, ששכלה את אביה יעקב ואחיה נתנאל ז״ל שנרצחו בפיגוע בעתניאל, קמה…
Guests interviewed by The Times of Israel said they were moved by the fact that Litman was going ahead with her wedding just days after getting up from shiva — the initial seven-day mourning period.
Bronya Shaffer, a teacher at Beth Rivkah, a Chabad high school for girls in Brooklyn, was in Israel for a conference, and was asked by Beth Rivkah’s principal to represent the school at the wedding.
Shaffer told The Times of Israel that her students sent messages and a gift to the couple. Before leaving for Israel, Shaffer had a discussion with the girls, some of whom spoke about how inspired they were by Litman, who, by going ahead right away with her planned marriage, is letting joy into her life despite her pain.
“We spoke about how the bride is not giving in to suffering. Suffering and pain are not the same,” Shaffer said.
Sharon Feldman, who lives in Mevasseret Zion, said she came to the wedding because she was “curious” to see how people can move so quickly from a state of mourning to a joyous event.
“These people are very brave to go from a murderous catastrophe to something so happy. That’s the power of faith, I guess,” she said, referring to the fact that members of the Litman family — who live in Kiryat Arba, a settlement on the outskirts of Hebron — are religious Jews.
Although the general public was invited to join the festivities only after 10:30 p.m., a group of seven Australian teens on a gap-year program in Israel who had arrived early tried to talk their way past security so they could witness the ceremony from up close.
The 18- and 19-year-old students from Sydney and Melbourne said that being in Israel during the current wave of terror has been hard at times. They spoke of the tension in the air, and how they have exercised extra caution while trying to carry on with their regular activities.
“I’ve found myself looking over my shoulder a lot as I walk around,” said Tim Schey.
His friend Caleb Dobelski spoke of scared parents back home and program participants who have decided to scratch plans to visit terror-stricken Europe after their program ends a week from now.
Despite their feeling a bit jittery about the security situation, the students said they had not wanted to miss the wedding, and that they were grateful to their program leaders for letting them attend.
“It’s an incredible national experience. Israel is like a big family, and I feel part of it,” said Tamar Jacobs.
This sentiment of national unity was echoed by David Alter from Lawrence, New York, who, together with his wife, Suri, sufficed with standing behind a barrier meant to keep people without invitations to the ceremony itself well away from the huppah.
“We have to be strong as a nation, and we are here to do our part. We share both Israel’s bad and good times. We can’t let the terrorists win,” Alter said as he filmed the goings-on with his cell phone.
Unlike Alter and his wife who had already planned to be in Israel over the long American Thanksgiving weekend, Sara Just-Michael flew in especially to attend the wedding.
A senior at Queens College in New York, Just-Michael was one of six students from the US and Canada brought to the event by Chabad on Campus.
While waiting for a connecting flight in Zurich on Wednesday, Just-Michael, 23, told The Times of Israel by phone that she had won a sort-of lottery set up to determine which student would represent her campus at the wedding.
“Chabad on Campus sold raffle tickets for $18 a piece, and all the money went to pay for the plane ticket. We just broke even,” she explained.
Just-Michael was surprised that she won the raffle, and when Tzipah Wertheimer, co-director of Chabad On Campus at Queens, called her at 2 p.m. on Tuesday and asked if she could be at the airport by 10 o’clock that evening, she answered with an unequivocal “yes.”
“It’s not about me personally going. It was important to send someone from our college, but I am glad that I will be able to be there to experience something happy that shows we can still look forward past the horrible things that have been happening,” she said.
As a singing and dancing throng escorted Litman and Biegel to the huppah, Australian student Jemma Katz headed off with her friends to try to get closer to the action — but not before expressing one last thought.
“You asked us what made us want to be at this wedding. I can tell you that for me it was the idea of a daughter of a family broken apart by terrorism getting married and building a new family of her own,” she said.