MONDAY MORNING, 7 A.M., AT THE Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, a mid-October day, the first day of the Hebrew month of Heshvan.

On Mondays and Thursdays, Jews traditionally read from the Torah and dozens of families have come to the Kotel (wall, in Hebrew, as the Western Wall is familiarly called) for their sons’ bar mitzva ceremonies as the 13-year- old boys wrap phylacteries around their heads and forearms for the first time. The Kotel plaza is filled with families from all over the country, and some from abroad, who have come to celebrate, dragging food baskets and surrounded by groups of drummers and shofar blowers.

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