For the second time since taking office, President Reuven Rivlin on Monday hosted bar and bat mitzva victims of terrorism.
The 58 youngsters representing a broad cross section of society from ultra-Orthodox to secular, Sephardi, Ashkenazi and Ethiopian, were yet another indication of terrorism’s indiscriminate cruelty.
Rivlin, who in recent months has been under attack from certain quarters, was received with whistles, cheers and sustained applause by the youngsters, those of the parents who accompanied them and volunteers working with The Terror Victims Association.
Rivlin was lauded for always having time for the organization during his period as a member and speaker of the Knesset, and continuing in this vein as president.
“It’s a festive day for you and for me, and I’m privileged to celebrate with you in your period of transition from childhood to maturity,” he told his guests.
Commenting that maturity carries with it the responsibility of coping with many problems, Rivlin paused for a moment then said: “You have already had much to cope with too young and too soon. You have suffered loss, pain and physical and emotional problems,” he said, noting that the young boys and girls in the hall had lost parents or siblings or had been wounded themselves in terrorist attacks.
“Some of you carry the memory of the last time you saw a loved one who left and never returned,” he said, “and some of you bear not only scars of memory but also physical scars.”
Rivlin made special mention of a recent victim Naor Ben Ezra, who was riding his bike in Jerusalem’s Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood on October 12, when he was stabbed by Ahmed Manasra, a boy his own age.
Ben Ezra was severely wounded and rushed to hospital unconscious and in a critical condition.
Doctors did not hold out much hope for his survival. Yet last week, together with members of his family and close friends, he went to the Western Wall to celebrate his bar mitzva and to join in the joyous dancing afterwards. A very eloquent young man, Ben Ezra shared some of his experiences on Monday at the President’s Residence, saying the boy who had attacked him had been raised in a sea of hatred and had assaulted him only because he was Jewish.
Although the odds for his recovery had been slim, he said, the excellent medical care that he received, coupled with his own determination had enabled him to pull through, but he still had a long way to go in terms of rehabilitation.
“There’s a price we pay for being in this land and being Jewish,” Rivlin acknowledged.
He urged the youngsters to continue to dream and to realize their dreams. “I’m sure you’ll be a source of pride, strength and joy to your families,” he said.
Haim Katz, Welfare and Social Services minister, echoed some of what Rivlin had said and added that the country’s future depends on the best strengths and minds of today’s youth.
He also assured them that they had not been forgotten, nor will they be forgotten.
This pledge was reiterated by Yehoshua Cohen, the chairman of The Terror Victims Association, who said the organization would continue its tireless work to defend and maintain the rights of all victims.
Cohen himself was severely wounded at age 6 in Jerusalem’s German Colony during the War of Independence. One of his brothers was also wounded, and later his family had to cope with two other brothers who suffered disabilities after fighting in subsequent wars.
Cohen said he had not allowed his own disability to prevent him from living a normal life and contributing to society.