(December 2, 2015 / JNS)
On Nov. 26, I went to the wedding celebration of Sarah Tehiya Litman and Ariel Beigel, just two weeks after Sarah’s father and 18-year-old brother were shot to death by a Palestinian terrorist and member of Islamic Jihad on their way to a pre-wedding celebration.
The couple’s marriage was set for Nov. 17, but after Sarah’s father and brother were buried on Nov. 14, the wedding was postponed. The couple decided to invite the entire state of Israel to their wedding, which was held in Jerusalem’s conference hall, Binyei Hauma.
On the night the couple was to wed, Sarah told the Hebrew-language Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, “This evening, instead of wearing the bridal dress, I will sit on the floor with a torn shirt. But very soon, we will marry in a large and happy wedding. We will go on and be happy as Father and Netanel always were. We will not be crushed.”
And this was the exact sentiment in which the wedding was set. After the couple wed, thousands danced outside the conference hall, waved Israeli flags, and defiantly sang and celebrated Jewish life. Music blasted from the Breslov vans that drive around playing techno-Hassidic music from their speakers. (The Breslov approach argues that we should serve God through joy, with all our hearts, and live life to the fullest.)
The crowd was impressive; people came from all around Israel, and even some from abroad. There were young children, teens, adults, and older folks who showed up. Both secular and religious Jews came together to support the new couple and demonstrate against the horrific terrorist acts that befell the Litmans and too many other Israelis. It was one of those moments where you have to stop, shut your eyes, shake your head, and open and refocus your eyes to make sure you’re seeing things straight. It was a true “only in Israel” moment, a marriage of both celebration and demonstration.
Many of the celebration-goers went to support the couple, to show them that they have the support of the State of Israel and the Jewish people behind them. But the open wedding party also represented a statement against terrorism, showing the world that we will not succumb to the goal of terrorism, namely, to break down society until we give into their political and religious demands. Instead, the wedding showed the exact opposite—it showed that the Jewish people will come out of every abominable attack with new life and resolve.
When the bride came out to dance with the crowd, she was treated as if she were a famous person coming to Israel for the first time—everyone wanted desperately to see her and wish her well.
I’ve been to many music concerts with eager fans, but to push to the front to see Sarah was challenging compared to my past experiences pushing towards globally famous musicians. When I finally got to the front of the crowd, I saw Sarah dancing, with bodyguards around her, and an exhausted look on her face. It was when I saw her that I realized the true purpose of the celebration. It wasn’t for her benefit, and neither was it for the benefit of the rest of her family. The celebration/demonstration was for the State of Israel and for the Jewish people.
Her last two weeks were an emotional roller coaster in its truest form. Two of her family members were murdered, she went to the funeral for both of them at once, sat shiva for them, and then continued with her wedding. Each one of these events alone is incredibly tiring physically and emotionally, and to do all at once must truly exhaust human capabilities.
I realized that the new couple decided to open the wedding not because they wanted support for themselves, but because it raises Israeli spirit, and that means the terrorists lost, no matter how many they successfully killed. Because, as it is written in the couple’s wedding invitation, the Torah states, “Do not rejoice over me, my enemy, for I have fallen but I have gotten up” (Michah 7:8).
The wedding proved to Israel and to the world that the Jewish people are not strangers to falling down, but the most important thing is to get up even stronger than before.
Eliana Rudee is a fellow with the Salomon Center for American Jewish Thought and the author of the “Aliyah Annotated” column for JNS.org. She is a graduate of Scripps College, where she studied international relations and Jewish studies. Her bylines have been featured in USA Today, Forbes, and The Hill. Follow her aliyah column on JNS.org, Facebook, and Instagram