Violeta’s Blog – Vow Under the Stars

A Match Made in Heaven – A Vow Under the Stars

Shani and Avior’s Wedding – Derech Eretz, Machasia, Israel

June 13, 2018

By Violeta Esquinazi

Imagine standing at the foothills of the Judean Mountains surrounded by a natural pastoral setting. Looking down you see an enclosed garden encircled by a wooden pathway overlooking the remains of Hasmonean stone structures. Looking up you see a snake path covered with colorful blossoms leading to an arched-stoned chamber with a window overlooking the Judean landscape. Inside this chamber sits a dazzling, young bride before she initiates the procession downhill to meet her beloved before they walk together towards the wedding canopy!

This idyllic place, Derech Eretz, located in Machasia, Israel, was the magical venue where Shani Havusha and Avior Emanuel exchanged vows under the stars in the presence of 400+ guests. I was honored to be one of the guests, and had the privilege to experience a uniquely mystic, enchanting and spiritual wedding ceremony to always remember.

On arrival I climbed to the bridal chamber to find the bride surrounded by joyful women of all ages and backgrounds. Two of them, bold and high-spirited young musicians, produced groovy rhythms with a drum and a timbrel and their jubilant beat made it impossible for any of us to remain still. Admiring Shani’s mindful presence, I was moved to tears remembering the little girl I knew since childhood, now about to stand under the wedding canopy. I stood there for quite some time enjoying the magic and admiring her natural beauty enhanced by a glow of joyful anticipation and bliss.  At times she closed her almond-shaped eyes dancing graciously to the beat of the drum, as if she travelled inward to acknowledge the Divine.

While this was happening, Avior, the groom, was surrounded by dozens of joyful men congregated in the main level. I could hear them chanting and dancing so loud that the floor was pounding with a thump of euphoria. When I was finally able to take a glimpse of Avior engulfed in the crowd, I sensed him being in a trance of prayer and joy, which made me realize that this young couple was spiritually and emotionally connected.

The guest’s full attention was drawn towards Shani when she started her downhill procession to meet her beloved. I sensed their coming together as a holy communion of like-minded souls. I loved watching their march together escorted by a flutist and a drummer playing middle-eastern tunes.

The wedding was as unique as the magical setting. While family and guests surrounded the canopy making it difficult for others to witness the ceremony, I pushed my way through the crowd and was able to stand next to Debbie, the mother’s bride and also my dear friend, and was able to experience first-hand the chanting, prayers, blessings, and rituals that followed. Several clergy took turns to bless the couple and carried out the marriage rituals. I enjoyed watching Shani and Avior standing there in harmonious presence. After receiving the Ketubah (wedding contract), the groom blew me off with his unexpected, jubilant, passionate and spiritual declaration of love and commitment to his beloved.

Dinner, dancing and celebration followed for many hours under the starry sky. I witnessed my friends, Debbie and Yossi rejoice around their guests and especially around the newlyweds. The place rocked with high-spirited energy of connectedness to haShem, the natural environment and each other.

I left in a state of deep gratitude for all that surrounded me – the holiness of a wedding vow, the gift of friendship and community, the magic of the natural environment and the Divine interconnectedness of all of G-d’s creation.


By Violeta Esquinazi







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