PALESTINE — When I tell you that my family and I attended a Bedouin wedding this week, what do you think of? Maybe tents, a fire, camels, and sand? Well, of course there are still some Bedouins who live this way, about 50,000 in Palestine and Israel, but the other 150,000 live a sedentary lifestyle.
A Bedouin father and mother may have around 10-14 children and, as their sons grow up and get married, they build another floor above the mother and father’s residence for their new families. The girls are whisked away after the wedding to live with her husband’s family. So, this may look like a regular house to you and me, but in reality, it may already hold 25-30 people. Although the Bedouin family my family has been friends with for many years does not have flocks or lands and does not move their living arrangement with the seasons, they are still very traditional. All of the children in their family have married within the village (of about 7000 people). That way, they can still see their daughters on Friday nights when families come to visit and eat together. One elderly aunt cried to us that only 1 or 2 of her sons stayed in the village, all the other 8 children have married and moved to Haifa – a long trip for her at this age.
On the day of the wedding, women from all the village came to help prepare the food (we ate 3 full meals that day), which was served at the bride’s home for the bride’s family and guests before the wedding. While we drank strong cardamom coffee and received sweets and fruits. Then the bride was called on by the groom and his family and taken to his house, with loud music and the entire family in tow.
Later, we were asked to walk to the town’s center, where the entire school was being used for the wedding. This was the only place big enough for the whole village to come and participate – as they do for every wedding in the village. The music was as loud as any concert in Tel Aviv. A small group of men and women provide all the plastic chairs, tables and amplifiers for all the weddings in the village.
And what was the food like?? A traditional dish of rice with noodles, sliced almonds and ground beef on top – really yummy! We ate until we were full; then we got up, because to serve over a 1000 people you need to take turns on the chairs and tables. We moved to the soccer field, where the music was coming from and the dancing began.
So, how long did the wedding last? I really can’t tell you…we arrived at 3pm in order to see the bride’s journey to her new home and left around 10pm, but the party was just getting started!
One of the pleasures of living in this land is sharing our traditions and learning from each other, away from the stresses and guilt of the conflict we are all entrenched in.
Did any of the guests look at me or my family and think: “They’re from the oppressing side, the Colonialists?”
Maybe, who knows. I know my friends didn’t and they were the ones we were there to support and celebrate.
One day, maybe sooner rather than later, the lovely Hussein family will join us at our brother’s wedding, and they will celebrate with us doing the Dabka.