Sunday, March 21, 2010

Wedding in the Hurva Shul: A Story You Probably Haven't Heard

Leafing through the numerous Shabbat sheets floating around shul this past Shabbat, I came across a heart-warming story that I had not heard about the Hurva shul's rededication.
After the conclusion of the national dedication of the Hurva shul following its extensive construction, a young couple celebrated the first wedding in the shul. You can find an article in Hebrew about the wedding here (and more pictures), and someone posted a video of the wedding here. You can also see the story here (on page 6). But I haven't yet seen anything about it in the English press.
Here's what happened:
A young lone soldier from the United States, named Bezalel, planned to marry Ashira, his Ethiopian bride. Ashira's only family joining her was her sister, and Bezalel came with just a few army friends. Nonetheless, they decided to have the wedding in the Old City, hoping that they could find a minyan to help them make the wedding.
The story reached the leadership of the Corporation for the Development and Building of the Jewish Quarter, who upon hearing the story decided to ask the guests from the dedication ceremony to stay for the wedding in order to ensure the required ten men.
Hundreds stayed, and they danced the young couple to the chuppah with great joy. The article explains,
A Tallit was spread over the heads of the couple, and Nissim Arazi, the head of the Corporation for the Development and Building of the Jewish Quarter reminded the crowd of the words of our Sages who said that, "Anyone who brings joy to a chattan and kallah - it is as if he built a ruin from the ruins (hurvot) of Jerusalem."
The rededication of a shul destroyed by Arabs in 1948 brought me a measure of joy - coming full circle to some extent. But I've been in the Old City. I'd seen the shul, and I wondered about it: who would actually daven there? Would it return to its useful role, as a vibrant sign of renewed life in the Old City? Or would it now be consigned to a stop for tourists; a beautiful landmark to be sure, but absent the vitality and activity that brings a shul to life?
It's impossible to know the shul's true future. But the thought of an American Jew joining the IDF and finding his Ethiopian bride in the Holy Land says more to me about the rebirth of the Jewish people in our homeland than the dedication of the Hurva shul ever could.