Since time immemorial, an ancient mating ritual has been practiced, amongst the ultra orthodox sect of judaism, in the holy land of Israel. All details are sacrosanct. Our top investigative reporter reports back to us, below.
Time: 8 PM on the first day of summer Bein Hazmanim.
Place: The Inbal hotel lobby, Jerusalem.
A row of white cabs pull up in the traffic circle. One by one, out step the girls. Each girl is fully made up and in her finest, each is clutching a purse, and each is wished good luck, with a wink, by her respective cab driver.
The guard, standing at a wooden booth beside the potted palm trees, inspects their bags. Again they are told good luck, this time with a grin. One by one they push though the revolving door, into the heart of the Israeli shidduch scene.
Inside stand the young men. They wear black hats, and suits. They can be distinguished by their ties. Beards are optional.
They stand, by the reception desk and the souvenier display cases. The chairs are taken by groups of tourists, in T Shirts and canvas shorts, chattering loudly. They may be the hotel's paying guests, yet in fact they are the trespassers, here in this ancient mating place, during the holy pairing ritual.
For some lucky pairs, this is a second date. Or even a third one, and they are well on their way to engagement. One of these boys will immediately spot his beloved, and stride towards her confidently. She smiles up at him (or down, if she's in heels). She is in love, with this wonderful male specimen, the first man she has ever conversed with at length who is not a first degree relation. Perhaps she is not yet in love, but at least he is not a stranger to her. They have already endured the first awkward meeting, two days previously, and have succeeded in banishing the memory. They are a couple.
The others look at each other helplessly. Who is for whom? A voice may have pronounced their soulmates in the heavens, before they descended to earth, but right now, under the amused eyes of the receptionists, and the guests, it is not of much assistance. The boys are stranded, deserted, surrounded by expectant females, without their mother to turn to.
The girls are better off. Their task is easier. They are but to stand, purse in hand, eyes modestly downcast, until approached by a suitor. They try to look ornamental, elegant and refined, as they do so.
One girl stands out from the others. Under close inspection, she is not any prettier. Nor is she dressed very differently .She too wears a skirt that conceal the knees, and a sweater set, and carries a patent leather purse. Yet she stands differently. She smiles at the men who meet her eye. She finds a free sofa, and perches there, legs crossed. She should not be there, tonight. She can offer no apartment as dowry. There is no noble family tree arrayed behind her. Her own background too cannot stand under thorough investigation. Yet she has come. And she is the first girl they all approach.
"Sara?" one asks. She drifts her eyes down him, and across his girth. "No", she says. He moves on, disappointed, hoping for better luck with the next girl. "Tzippora?" asks another. His tie is spotted, instead of striped. Bright colors. She likes it, but not the ill fitting cut of his suit. "No", she says, and he turns away. Around her, two by two, they pair up. And like the animals in Noah's ark, they match their steps, as they make their way around the corner, to the lounge.
She remains. As does another girl, who's now biting her nails.
The glass door begins to revolve, a long lean shadow is reflected in the marble floor. The two girls wait. One calm, the other afluster. It is a man, a young man, suitably attired in black and white. He is alone. He gazes across, at them both. The first girl meets his eyes, and smiles. She likes his confident stride, as he crosses the lobby to her side. "Chana Leah?" he asks. Questioning. Hopeful. "Yes." She says. "For you darling, I can be Chana Leah." She murmurs to herself, too quietly for him to hear. They exit the scene. Both expectant, both pleased.