In the weeks before the most recent Yom Tov, Reuven Lebetkin and Shirel Tayeb were in the final stages of planning the wedding of their dreams, scheduled for October 25. Their plans came to a screeching halt on October 7. As officers in the IDF reserves, both Reuven and Shirel were called up to serve. This created a dilemma regarding how to proceed with the wedding.
While weddings at army bases have become the latest trend, Reuven’s battalion wasn’t stationed on an official army base. They were located in a field in the North that was taken over by the IDF. The IDF told the farmer who owned the field that they needed the space and made it into their makeshift base.
Reuven and Shirel did not want to postpone their wedding. But how and where could they get married under the circumstances? Reuven was not permitted to leave his base. This meant there was only one possible venue for their wedding: a dusty field filled with tanks and tents. This was going to be no ordinary wedding.
Making a wedding on this base created security issues. To this day, the location of the simchah is considered top-secret. Only the parents and siblings of the chasan and kallah were invited. No other relatives or friends were permitted to attend. The grandparents were informed that the wedding took place after the fact.
On the day of the wedding, the family (approximately 15 people, including the chasan’s brother, currently serving down South) was given instructions. They were told to drive to a yishuv in the North. From there, they were to drive by convoy to the base. The women decided to forgo their gowns and elegant shoes and arrived in Shabbos clothes and sneakers. Upon arrival, they were told what to do if they heard a siren. They were also advised where they could and could not take pictures. For added security, the wedding was moved up by two days.
On his wedding day, Reuven built a chupah with his own hands. He took a shower (quite an indulgence) and went to the mikvah at a nearby yishuv. He was treated to a brand-new army uniform for the auspicious occasion.
Girls from a nearby yishuv decorated the chupah. They also decorated a white plastic chair where the kallah would sit. A piece of white fabric on the ground served as an aisle.
Food donated to the soldiers served as a meal for the seudah. The chasan’s mother brought a wedding cake and two giant homemade challahs. Pretty paper goods adorned the tables that were set for the family.
The chasan’s tish took place in the officers’ tent. After reading the t’na’im, the rav made a l’chayim on… delicious, refreshing water.
The Lebetkins’ rav was m’sadeir kiddushin. He wrote on the k’subah that the wedding took place in a field near a certain yishuv (named on the document) in the North. Reuven was not required to hold his gun during the chupah. Noam Banai, from the famous Banai family of singers, surprised the couple and sang at the chupah. Two tanks positioned behind the chupah provided the visual effect of a smokescreen. After the chupah, a chayal shot confetti from an RPG, a weapon usually used to launch grenades.
Despite the heat, two to three hundred chayalim sporting their guns on their backs danced up a storm on the uneven terrain. Men of all types, some with ponytails, some with kippot, and others with tattoos, danced together with energy and passion. In contrast to the hundreds of chayalim, there were seven women. The chayalim came to dance for the kallah, as well.
The head of the base gave a moving speech during the seudah. He talked about how the wedding brought brachah and simchah to their battalion and gave them strength to continue fighting. He explained that we are a nation that wants life and fights against death. This wedding bears testimony to this fact, as we build a new bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael in the middle of a military camp. The Mishnah states that at the time of a milchemes mitzvah, everyone goes to fight, even a chasan coming out of his room and a kallah leaving her chupah. But in this case, the chasan was not leaving his chupah to go fight. He entered his chupah from the fighting in the war. The home this couple will build will surely be special.
The Lebetkins and Tayebs were not acquainted with most of the guests, but at the end of the wedding, the chayalim thanked the families for making the affair at their base. They were so happy to share in the simchah, particularly during these difficult times.
Since the wedding, the chasan and kallah have only seen each other twice. The kallah and her mother joined the Lebetkins for what would have been Shabbos Sheva Brachos. They made a beautiful seudah with their friends, but Sheva Brachos were not recited, since the chasan was not present.
We hope and pray that, b’ezras Hashem, all the chayalim return safely and that Reuven and Shirel begin their life together very soon.