Zewdi’s mother, Imanesh Kabede was not at Zewdi's side on her wedding ceremony. Zewdi and her mother had separated 10 years ago in 2012 in the hope that Zewdi would find a good life.
Zewdi made her long journey through the Sinai Desert alone. She spent her first nights in Israel behind bars, and her first warm bed was offered to her by the nuns in the Ethiopian church In Jerusalem (also known as The Kidane Mehret Church).
When Zewdi's baby, Mehert, was 3 days old, she found a family that adopted them. Yael, her husband, and their kids embraced Zewdi and her son into their home.
One day, Yael received a phone call from Zewdi who was in tears and heartbroken. She told Yael that her mother, Imanesh Kabede, had died in Ethiopia. Yael, Zewdi said gently, will be like a mother to her now.
Yael could not imagine back then that she will accompany her new daughter on her wedding day. After few years of being a part of the Ethiopian church, and attending services every Saturday, the nuns found Zewdi a match, Damte.
On Saturday morning, February 13th, 2021, Damte and Zewdi got married in a traditional Ethiopian ceremony surrounded by her friends and the church community that have been by her side for all these years.
The Orthodox wedding ceremony began at 6 AM with lit candles (Tuaf ), which symbolize the movement toward a happy life.
As Zewdi and Damte walked toward the ceremony hall, the groomsmen and relatives accompanied them singing inspiring religious songs, thanking God and welcoming the priests.
Two couples got married that Saturday and the church hall was full of people.
The strong smell of incense, the divine sounds of prayer and singing that flooded the hall shook my soul as well. It reminded me of my father's house of prayer and my traditional Yemenite wedding ceremony, Henna, which was almost 20 years ago.
After exchanging vows and their rings, the priest dressed the couple in heavy, long red coats adorned with gold. The coats symbolize the sacrifice of Christ as well as the humility and appreciation that the couple feels toward the church.
After long hours, the wedding ceremony came to an end with a series of prayers. Then, reciting a blessing, Zewdi and Damte were escorted out to the main church hall, where they joined the praying members of the community in dancing and beautiful traditional songs.
At 12 PM, we went out of the church into the delightfully sunny Saturday noon that was awaiting us and the new married couple.
Almost two-year have passed since I met Zewdi. Yael, her unofficial adopting mother, shared with me recently that Zewdi and her new family: Damte, Mehert, and a new baby girl, Agernesh, now live in a new home in Lod, a city in Israel.
Grateful for being among the fantastic photographers who was chosen to be featured in the international Lens Magazine for fine art photography and share Zewdi's story in issue 97, October 2022 | Culture
Achieving significant documentation is never a One (Wo)man Show.
I met Yael for the first time when I got into Yuval's Roth transit and traveled together with the "The Road to Recovery" volunteers to comfort Sahman's Alchoush family at their home in Hebron.
I was influenced by her adrenaline and together with her, everything seemed possible for me.
She understood back then the kind of materials I also made from.
A few months later I received a phone call from Yael. She shared with me that her adopted daughter Zewdi was getting married. "You have to document her wedding," she said.
With her unique determination, she once again swept me into a powerful divine experience that resonates with me to this day.
Thanks to Yael, beautiful Zewdi came into my life and into my heart
And I am grateful for that too.