MY SON and DAUGHTER-IN-LAW’S HENNA
Iwas so excited when my son’s Ukrainian-American fiancée asked me to hold a henna ceremony for the two of them before their wedding. When I got married, my mother prepared a traditional henna ceremony for me at home. She sewed me a special outfit and prepared all the traditional Tunisian delicacies for our female friends and family members. In modern-day Israel, Yemenite and Indian communities still hold traditional henna ceremonies, but most Israelis are happy to follow general Moroccan customs without worrying about their family’s specific traditions. And so, when I set out to begin planning the party with all the traditional Tunisian customs, this did not prove to be an easy task.
I found numerous companies and individuals whose businesses organize hennas, including intricate head coverings for the bride, outfits for all the family and guests, and of course food. But I was not interested in a grandiose event with lots of glitter and noise. I wanted to find someone who could help me recreate an authentic Tunisian henna. I met with dozens of henna organizers, but it wasn’t until I came upon Rachel Uzan from Moshav Beit Hagadi that I felt assured I would be able to give my son and his wife-to-be a proper Tunisian henna.
Uzan displayed for me a shiny beautiful hand-sewn outfit with strips of golden fiber running through it. The heavy head covering was covered with gold coins and chains, and there were pointy gold shoes to match. I was head over heels excited to have finally found the perfect person to organize our henna, and when Uzan told me she could also prepare traditional Tunisian food for the event, I knew I’d hit the jackpot. We also hired Yehudit Enoshi from Netanya to provide more outfits and to direct the ceremony in real time during the party.
My next task was to find a caterer to prepare traditional Tunisian brik sandwiches, and we were very lucky to chance upon Rami Madar from Ashkelon. We prepared bowls of the wet henna mixture, which were carried in during the ceremony in fancy bowls, with four lit candles stuck inside them. Our guests were invited to don costumes, too, and the atmosphere at the henna was wonderfully happy.
The bride and groom sat on throne-like chairs, and guests would place coins on a scarf that was laid out over their laps, while offering them wishes of good luck and happiness in their upcoming betrothal.
Next was the actual henna ceremony, where everyone puts a bit of wet henna mixture in their palm.
The refreshments were superb – exactly as I imagined them to be. The Tunisian fricassee sandwiches were spicy with harissa, and there was plenty of arak and rosetta to drink. There were sfinj doughnuts covered with sugar and endless cookies that resembled jewelry prepared by Orli Barnaz from Bat Yam.
Below I’ve included recipes for deblah pastries in syrup, brik pastries stuffed with egg, and fricassee sandwiches.
• PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN