How do you say “I do” in Greek?

Written by Emily

My name is Emily, I am the Development Associate at IRAC, (a fancy way for saying assistant), and for my first IRAC bog entry I am going to complain.

I made aliyah to Israel over two years ago, right after I finished my BA at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I wouldn’t say that I was idealistic, I knew what I was getting myself into and I knew that Israel was not the perfect country. But that was part of the reason I wanted to come, to help make things better, and I think that by working at IRAC I am staying true to that desire.

What I did not expect upon moving to Israel, and what I was not emotionally or mentally prepared for (and still do not know how to deal with), is how Israel would constantly disappoint me, over and over and over again. Yes, there have been many times that I have been proud to be Jewish and newly-Israeli, and have felt reaffirmed in my choice to move here, but there have been far too many instances recently where I have questioned, at the most basic level, “what is going on here?” and “is this a downward spiral that I really want to be a part of?” Thomas Friedman explains my feelings well (as he often does) in his recent NY Times article. I am confused.

A recent, personal, exemplification of my confusion and disappointment in Israel came this past November when I decided to get married. I know that the lack of a civil marriage option in Israel has been discussed here before, and this is just one more story of two Israeli citizens who have been denied a basic right by their government.

Neither my partner nor myself are religious Jews, and the thought of having a wedding that does not reflect who we are, but instead forces someone else’s religious observances on us, was out of the question. Instead, we had the pleasure of spending a bundle of money to leave Israel, a country we are both citizens of, but denies us the right to get married in a civil ceremony, and travel to Cyprus. There is a whole marriage industry that has sprung up in Cyprus as a result of this situation and we paid a travel agent to organize everything for us: the flight to Cyprus, the transportation to the Aradippou City Hall and the awkward “ceremony” where the Mayor spoke in such a thick accent that we had trouble understanding him, but said yes anyway.

Am I happy that I had the chance to spend a few days in Cyprus? Yes, it is a nice country and we made the best of the situation by renting a car and traveling a bit, but am I happy about the “wedding experience” that I was forced into? No. Not one bit.

Though we are planning a real wedding in Israel with our family and friends, I will always know that my legal wedding was awkward, lonely and a little bit sad. True, I could have forgotten about my values and given in to the Israeli Rabbinute, but anyone who knows me will know that this was never an option.

Israel has disappointed me on numerous occasions but this time it was personal, and I will never forget it. I can only hope that I will still be around to see the day when all Israelis are given the basic right to have an Israeli wedding ceremony that fits who they are.

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