Tel Aviv, Israel
This morning I woke up to the ear-splitting sounds of chainsaws and leaf blowers one flight below my temporary and decidedly improved digs. Instead of beginning my day at Pinsker, I rose from a plush sofa on Rut Street; a cozy little avenue nestled behind a park that reminded me of the likes of one named Thompson back in New York.
Not only did the early morning business provide a rather startling wake-up call but also the realization that one of my closest friends in all the world was now a married man.
Last night marked some of the most fantastic and enjoyable wedding ceremonies, or festivities of any kind I’d ever had the good fortune of attending.
I arrived at Rony’s apartment at 2:00 pm sharp, bag in tow, with sweat fiercely dripping down my back and now bronzed temples. He’d asked if I could stay at his apartment while he and Ella stayed at the Rothschild Hotel. “You’d actually be doing us a favor,” he said. “Burglars find out that people are gone from their apartments on social media.”
Considering his apartment was impeccable and offered the modern accouterments of any standard modern city apartment, it didn’t exactly require twisting my arm. The cold showers at Pinsker could wait.
I walked in to find an entourage of sorts. Rony, as expected was frantically going to and fro, accumulating many miles, but not necessarily closer to any new hub, at least as far as I could make out. Ella looked beautiful as she sat patiently while stylists worked on her long black hair and photographers snapped away.
I did what I could and offered my services in whatever capacity was needed. In the end, I half-ironed a shirt, helped Rony with a bow tie, and carried his luggage to a car parked near his building.
Eventually, we found ourselves on Rothschild Blvd, taking photos and having a wonderful time in one another’s all-too brief company. “You’re the equivalent of my best man in a Jewish wedding.” Rony commented. “I’m really honored,” I assured him.
Spending time together reminded me of how good Rony is. Despite his world spinning an extra rotation or two, he still asked repeatedly if I was okay, needed a ride, was enjoying myself, or even if I needed a few bucks for a cab. When your capacity to care and look out for another human being surpasses the pressing demands of your own life, I gather that’s about how truly genuine a fella can be.
We arrived early at the venue where the wedding would take place on the south side of town. The building exterior may not have inspired the launching of a thousand ships, but its Tribeca loft like interior certainly did the trick. The entire room was beautifully laid out and waiters and waitresses punched time clocks amid the photos, dance rehearsals, and family and friends that slowly began to stagger in.
The ceremony itself was something else. Of course, I didn’t understand a single phrase, but it didn’t take being versed in Hebrew to know the words and tone of the evening were as universal as the undeniable love both Rony and Ella had for one another.
I stole glances at the two between holding one of the four posts of a makeshift Chuppah, admittedly not grasping what an honor it was until later in the evening. “You just had a major part in a Jewish wedding my friend,” I heard Yuval, Rony’s older brother say. “People still come up to me and tell me, I held one of the pillars of the Chuppah at your parents’ wedding.” I just smiled.
I felt as if I was taking part in something truly significant. As lights flashed, footage on a Canon 5D rolled, and people nudged and clamored for better real estate, I felt like a specter who’d floated in to witness a historical event; Kennedy’s inauguration, or the signing of the Constitution. Perhaps the nature of the event did not possess the same gravity or influence, but who’s to say really? All that mattered is that I was there.
We danced for hours; an eclectic mix of traditional Jewish, Hebrew, and Israeli music peppered in with the less time-honored vocals of Bruno Mars and Adele. I marveled at the enormous kindness of everyone towards each other and me. People seemed to know who I was, clearly versed by Rony before my arrival. “I’ve heard about you,” I heard a close relative say. Others asked over raucous tunes if this was my first Jewish wedding. “I’ve been to many Jewish American weddings,” I said. “But the most I’ve seen in terms of tradition is the groom stepping on a glass and yelling Mazel tov! This was the real thing,” I cried.
Another asked where I was going after Israel. “Probably Egypt,” I said. “Wow. “It takes a lot of courage to do what you’re doing - traveling and soul-searching. Really great.” I thanked her for her reassuring theory, but chalked it up more to having the resources and perhaps a propensity towards evasiveness. In the end, I’d decided to go to Egypt instead of Romania by literally the flip of a coin. Definitely a “first world problem, I thought.
As the evening came to a close I saw Rony making certain that each party was accounted for. He wanted to know if people had a good time, if they had transportation home, in short, if they were okay, and hopefully happy. What a singular act. What a singular person. He'll make a good husband.
Last night I asked Yuval, 43, a child custody lawyer originally from Israel what the best piece of advice he ever received was. “Wow, that’s a really great question,” he said before pausing to give it some genuine and earnest thought. “The man I’m working for right now once told me, ‘You don’t have to worry about the rat race if you do things with integrity. If you approach your work with integrity everything takes care of itself.’