Beni Brak – by Matt Egbert

Starting off our first full day in Israel, we began the trip with an exposure to an entirely different cultural community that we had experienced before, the ultra-orthodox community in the city of Bnei Brak. What makes Bnei Brak so astounding is that it is a world completely of its own. I knew that going into the city would be a huge culture shock; however, it was nowhere near what I envisioned. I found the environment fascinating in the sense of how strictly everyone followed and conformed to the religious principles and how devoted they were in keeping with them. One huge indicator for me today regarding how committed they are was despite the temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit, the men of Bnei Brak were still rocking the suit and hat combination. So although using electricity was off the table for the weekend because it’s shabbat, dying of heatstroke was not.

One thing that we learned today about the ultra-orthodox culture was the concept of using a matchmaker to create marital pairings for Jewish men and women. Through them men and women find their partners who they may very well grow to love and these matchmakers have proven to have higher success rates than match.com, jdate, Christian mingle, and tinder combined. One thing that I found really interesting about this, is that when we typically think about the practice of marriage, we think about being married to the one we love and going into the marriage knowing that we do love that other person. Also on top of the matchmaker’s finding the finds and catching the catches, there is also another component to this and that is through a blood test. With these tests the matchmakers are able to see whether or not biologically the candidates can match, as in if they have any predispositions towards disease and such. And when the tests are over, the matchmaker swipes right on the two and they then set up a time to meet for say an hour or two and then a year later they marry. And the two are to begin their new life as newlyweds.

Another thing that was really interesting to learn about was the concept of trade and charity. This concept in Bnei Brak sufficiently is that when someone in the community does not have the needed funds to obtain something that they need, they are actually able to get said item for free. Such items can range from kippahs to sheets and blankets for a wedding dowry. This was such an interesting concept because the people in Bnei Brak understand that these are items which members of their community need in order to maintain their spiritual, marital or even daily lives and thus it was really interesting to see that the community understood and was willing to help another when in need.

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