April 14, 2008

BY LEAH HAKIMIAN

“I never went out searching for a boyfriend, ” says Mali Dahari, 31, who grew up in the northern Israeli city of Netanya. “I always said that someday my groom will come walking through my door. My friends used to laugh at me. But that’s exactly what happened. “

In July 2006 that guy came to Mali’s family home. He and his family were refugees of sorts. They lived 65 miles further north, in the city of Nahariya, and war had broken out. The Second Lebanon War had started the week before, after Hizbollah, in a border ambush, killed eight Israeli soldiers and kidnapped two, whose fate is still unknown. Hizbollah simultaneously rained Katyusha rockets on Israeli communities in the north. The rockets were being launched at the rate of about 200 a day. In Guy’s hometown some 50,000 residents had to decide whether to spend weeks in bomb shelters or to evacuate. Those who could moved out, including Guy Bruner and his family

In Mali’s hometown the city organized to take in people with steps like turning a school gymnasium into a dormitory. Her parents, Carmela and Zechariah Dahari, who already had a family of six children, were asked to help with meals. But they offered more. “Our home was always open to friends and relatives, to relatives of friends, and friends of relatives, says Mali. “My father’s roots are in Yemen, and my mother’s roots are in Libya. We have a long tradition of hospitality. “

The family values had been passed on to the next generation. Mali offered to move into her sister’s room and give up her studio apartment, which was on the lower level of her parent’s home.

“We didn’t know who would be coming, and we didn’t know how long they would be staying. We just knew that we would do our best to make them feel welcome, says Mali.

On July 16, the Bruner family moved into Mali’s space, all 12 of them – Guy, 30, his parents, sisters, brothers-in-law and their children.

“July 16th is my mom’s birthday, ” says Mali, “and July 18th is my dad’s. So we always celebrate on July 17th. ” That year was the biggest celebration ever – the Bruner family and the extended Dahari family. Molly adds: “From the beginning, our families got along beautifully. “

Molly considers: “And most of all, Guy and I hit it off. Though I wouldn’t say it was love the first week, I would say that the connection began the second week. “

With so many people around for so much of the time, where did Mali and Guy find some private space? “When everyone was sleeping, we would go outside to the backyard. We began talking about the past and present. ” Guy had a daughter from a marriage that ended in divorce. ” After his family, the dearest thing to his heart was the sea – he loved the water and he loved to fish, while Mali worked at the local bank and liked to go out with friends. “

The couple believes they were meant to be. “Guy and I believe that it was our destiny to find each other. My father, a religious man, believes that G-d sits in heaven and makes matches. “

A cease-fire ended the war on August 14, 2006. Some 3,970 rockets had landed on Israel. Almost a third of Israel’s population – over two million people – were directly exposed to the missile threat. It was not clear if anything good would come out of the war.

The evacuees began to return home, and Guy was the last member of his family to return to Nahariya. He was a company manager, and he had to get back to work. “It was the end of the beginning. But our future was ahead of us, ” says Molly. “Soon I moved to Nahariya to be with Guy. Twelve Bruners had come to Nahariya. I joined them as Number 13. A lucky number. “

Mali and Guy were married on October 31, 2007. Mazal tov!

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