Friday, August 07, 2009


I've lived in Tzfat for 24 years, and have heard, often, that so-and-so is going to a "henna". But I never had much of an understanding of what it was until last night, when my son's in-laws-to-be hosted a henna for their daughter and her intended (my son).

We were invited to a local restaurant where we (the families of the hatan and kallah -- bride and groom -- took the obligatory pictures, and then mingled with the arriving guests as they began to arrive, with Avishai and Leibat greeting everyone at the door. Since the "mechutunum" (in-laws) come from not-small families (Leibat's father is one of 10 siblings, and her mother is one of 4) we were, as one can imagine, completely outnumbered. The Rappeport extended family in Israel is quite small (my brother and wife/kids, a niece and her husband/baby, and some scattered cousins in Tel Aviv) and they couldn't come anyway, so we invited some neighbors who are like friends, and just gave outselves over to the fact that the evening would be mostly Dahans.

When everyone arrived, we sat down to the first course, home-baked pita bread and some amazing salads (I HAVE to learn how to bake a mushroom like that!). Then, the party started. Avishai and Leibat made a formal entrance, and the music began, with everyone dancing to a mix of Moroccan/Tunisian music (her parents are Moroccan and Tunisian....I don't remember who is what, and I'm not sure what kind of music it was, but it was lively and fun!). I was quite suprised at how great my kids danced, especially Avishai, who can boogy Sepharadi-style with the best of them.

After a LOT of dancing (my feet were killing me....wrong shoe choice) we had the main course, which was delicious. Then, the main ceremony started. Avishai and Leibat sat on chairs in the middle of the room, and her mother and I gave her jewelry which we'd bought for her (in our case, Avishai picked everything out). Then we all went outside and took platters of cakes which had been prepared, and to the accompaniment of more music, brought them in, held high, like an offering to the couple. At the head of the procession was a bowl of something that looked like chocolate pudding with candles stuck in the middle of it.

After a LOT of more dancing, this time with the platters of goodies, (and this time, I took off my shoes) Leibat's aunt started scooping out the "pudding" and placing it on everyone's hands, Avishai and Leibat first. The "pudding" was henna, a kind of dye, and it's supposed to signify good luck. Then, everyone got henna blopped on their hands, and after a lot more dancing, the henna ended.

I asked Leibat's mother about the significance of the henna ceremony. She said that she didn't know a lot about it -- it's a type of engagement ceremony. I know that Moroccans and Tunisians do it, and Yemenite Jews as well, often with entire traditional costumes which the bride and groom wear, with the bride DRIPPING with gold jewelry (borrowed). Some families do the henna just with the bride and her mother/sisters/other women, closer to the wedding. In our case, because Avishai and Leibat will observe the tradition of not seeing each other for the week before the wedding (and because next week is Klezmer Festival in Tzfat, when the logistics of getting in and out of the city in the evening hours are impossible) and they wanted to do a mixed men/women ceremony, they did it like this.

There will be professional pictures coming, but in the meantime, I got a few snapshots to share.

Now, if one of my kids marries an Ethiopian Jew, I wonder what to expect then?

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