A wedding in the shadow of war

We had set the date for Tomer and Esther’s wedding six months earlier, not knowing that “Black Shabbat” would turn our lives upside down.

By Anat Schneider | | Topics: Gaza, Hamas
Photo courtesy Aviel and Anat Schneider

It is said that once a wedding date is set, you have to stick to it even in difficult times. So our son Tomer and his bride Esther decided to hold the wedding in our garden. Nevertheless, everything was uncertain because all of our sons have been on reserve duty for three weeks. Nobody could promise us that they would be released and able to attend. Maybe even Tomer wouldn’t be allowed to come. We took nothing for granted. But we firmly believed that the chuppah would take place.

Two days earlier, Esther had held a ceremony at her parents’ house just for the women of the two families. A spiritual ceremony in which the power of faith and joy was expressed and in which people told one another which biblical commandments women are entitled to. And in this context I would like to say a few words about joy, especially at this time. What is true joy and how can you motivate joy?

A little joy in the midst of war.

As soon as joy begins within us, it radiates outwards and affects our surroundings. At this women’s meeting we didn’t know which of our boys would come. Everything was shrouded in fog, but we were full of faith. And we began to praise and honor the joy by deciding to make the bride happy that evening. With praise and music, the gathering around Esther became a great joy.

That same evening we received news from our boys. Tomer was given leave, but had to return the next morning. Wow, we already had the groom. Elad told us that he would return from the north after midnight. And Moran also suddenly told us that he was coming home. On the way from the north he also picked up Tomer’s best friend (his name is also Tomer), who is also on reserve duty. Ariel, our son-in-law, was released from the south at the last moment. And our second Eden, Moran’s girlfriend, also managed to be there.

Everyone made it, just in time.

We only started preparing the garden for the wedding on Thursday. There were many helping hands. Tables, chairs and parasols were brought in throughout the day. The moshav where we live helped us. Then a simple chuppah was brought to us. The chuppah is a canopy made of white cloth held up by four ornate poles. The wedding ceremony takes place around the canopy. Four men hold the poles during the wedding ceremony. A very simple chuppah, but that made everything even more impressive. The wedding was scheduled for Friday afternoon. In the early morning we women all made ourselves beautiful, put on make-up and did our hair. A young make-up artist came to help us. Tomer arrived at nine o’clock. An hour later, Esther came from Ma’aleh Adumim with her parents. And at eleven o’clock our guests began to arrive one by one. Just family and close friends, about 80 guests. More was not possible because of the missile alarms.

A small but joyous gathering.

I announced in our WhatsApp group in the moshav that we were having a wedding and apologized in advance for the noise. “Noise? Make more noise! We need the noise of joy to avoid hearing the noise of rockets, planes and explosions that we have become accustomed to,” my neighbors responded. Our festival was good for the entire moshav. Another neighbor said: “It is a great mitzvah to make a bride and groom happy, especially at this time.” He canceled a memorial service somewhere else for this.

The bride and groom.

After the rabbi said the seven blessings, he gave Tomer the opportunity to say something. This is not typically part of the ceremony, but our son had something on his heart. He thanked us for coming. Then he was silent for a few moments. There was silence, everyone waited for his words. “I would now like to remember Dekel Swissa, who fell on October 7th,” said Tomer. Silence. Tears choked his throat. “Dekel was an officer in Golani. He gave his life for us. This is important and symbolic. Our wedding today is in Dekel’s memory.” There wasn’t a dry eye. “Dekel only lived a few houses away from us. Let’s be happy and keep living.”

Finally, Tomer shouted, “Am Yisrael Chai” and reminded us that we have a duty to rejoice, because if we don’t, our enemies have won.” What an encouragement and what a moment of sobriety and peace in this crazy time in which we live.

This joy is pure and quiet. And this joy is very close to sadness, it is part of it. And the sadness is painful and tiring. Sadness has no end. But when you decide to be happy, something changes. This joy helps us deal with sadness and prevents it from taking over our soul. Joy opens the grace of God in heaven. “If I ever forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand will wither. May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth if I no longer think of you, if I do not exalt Jerusalem to my highest joy.” Every bridegroom says this verse from Psalm 137 under the canopy.


Yet in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem…there will be heard once more the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom!” (Jeremiah 33:10, 11). God is a merciful God, He wants to make us rejoice and continue to build up the house of Israel. The next morning the boys were all on their way to the borders of Israel again.

Am Israel Chai!


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One response to “A wedding in the shadow of war”

  1. spenglersilvia says:

    So, wie ich in ernster und fröhlicher Literatur, Filmen – ob hebräisch, jiddisch oder woher – das jüdische Volk kennenlernte – erlebe ich diese ungewöhnliche Hochzeit hier im Internet. Und das ist der Grund, dass Israel immer noch lebt.
    Ihr seid traurig an Gräbern, verkraftet Progrome mit Verlust vieler Lieben, dreht Euch herum und tanzt – ohne die zu vergessen, die Ihr betrauert habt. Das bestätigte die Rede des Bräutigams, in der er seines getöteten Freundes gedachte – und die Freude besiegt die Angst wenigstens bis morgen – denn da beginnt wieder der Kampf ums Überleben Eures Volkes. Es ist ja nicht nur diese Gefahr – sie dauert bereits Jahrtausende, und ich bin froh, dass ich nach dem Krieg die jüdische Geschichte gelehrt bekam und deshalb manches kenne, was heute nur wenige noch lehren – leider.
    Möge das Paar lange leben und mindestens Goldene Hochzeit feiern können!

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