Remembering Both Jerusalem and Gaza Beneath the Wedding Canopy

By Jennifer Siegel

Published December 09, 2005, issue of December 09, 2005.

In almost all respects, Aryeh Gottlieb’s Israeli wedding late last month was a standard Orthodox affair. The bride and groom were separated for a week beforehand; the ceremony took place under a chupah in a Jerusalem banquet hall, and the men and women danced — unmixed — until well into the night.

And then there were the guests who’d been living in tents.

All Israelis were touched personally by last summer’s disengagement from Gaza and the northern West Bank, but Gottlieb — who serves in one of the army units reserved for observant Jews — was perhaps touched more than most. As a yeshiva student, he lived for three years in Neve Dekalim, once the area’s largest community. In his time there he met many who would become friends and mentors — and he also met his future wife. (She is the sister of his best friend from school.)

Against this backdrop, Gottlieb’s November 8 wedding — which counted among its 500 guests more than two dozen Gaza evacuees, some still without homes — combined a joyous celebration with a solemn commemoration. At the end of the marriage ceremony, Rabbi Dov Lior, chief rabbi of Kiryat Arba and grandfather of the bride, condemned the disengagement. He then sprinkled ashes on Gottlieb’s forehead, as is the custom in certain Orthodox circles, and to conclude the ceremony the groom broke two glasses under his right foot in quick succession. The first glass was the traditional vessel broken by Jewish grooms everywhere as a reminder that there is woe in the world even during times of joy. (In some circles, the glass in linked more specifically to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.) The second cup, added by Gottlieb after he received a rabbinic go-ahead, signified the recent destruction of the settlements.

“We said if we break a cup for Jerusalem, we should break a cup for Gush Katif, so people remember and see it was a bad thing that happened,” Gottlieb, 21, said in an interview with the Forward. His evacuee friends cried at the sight, he said.

The groom’s voice brightened, however, on recalling his journey to the altar. During his time at the Neve Dekalim yeshiva, he said, his roommates took turns inviting each other home for the Sabbath with their respective families, and at one such gathering Gottlieb attracted the eye of his best friend Yisrael Lior’s sister, Aviva.

Contrary to what might seem the traditional script, it was she who then played the role of suitor. After the weekend, she asked her brother if he might arrange a date, but Yisrael was too shy to broach the topic with his friend. When she had a mutual friend approach Gottlieb about getting together, Gottlieb declined, saying it was just a few months before he was to report to the army for basic training. Finally, during a Purim celebration last winter, Yisrael got drunk and told Gottlieb, “I want you to go out with my sister.”

After his first six months of training were finished, Gottlieb did just that. Three months later, he and Aviva were engaged.

“Everything just matched; it just looked like it was it,” Gottlieb said.

The couple received a one-month honeymoon, courtesy of the Israeli military: New husbands are allowed four weeks off from active duty. In a few months, he will return to the yeshiva — which has moved to a small town called Yad Binyamin 20 minutes outside Jerusalem — and the new couple will make a home together there.

Gottlieb will be part of the last group of students from the yeshiva allowed to enroll in a joint program with the Israeli army.

“After the evacuation, no students are allowed to go in the army anymore,” he explained. “We will not forget, and we will not forgive.”

Jennifer Siegel is a Forward staff writer.



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