Rivlin hosted a bar- and batmitzvah event for children of families affected in terrorist attacks..
(photo credit: MARK NEIMAN)
Few things epitomize Israeli resilience and the ability to overcome than the annual Bar/Bat Mitzvah joint celebration of victims of terrorism, which for the past 17 years has comprised a day’s outing to exciting places in Jerusalem culminating with a meeting with the president of the state at his official residence.
On Monday evening, some 60 youngsters in this category, the girls with wreaths in their hair, gathered in the large reception room for the final event of their long day.
Some were accompanied by parents, and if the mode of attire was indicative of anything, it was that most of those present came from Judea and Samaria.
The event was moderated by supermodel Esti Ginzburg, who told the young boys and girls never to give up on following their dreams. “Be what you want to be,” she said. At the end of the evening she said that support for victims of terror is a national mission.
Rivlin, in his address to the “beloved children,” said that their rite of passage “is a festival both for you and for us.”
The age of maturity (12 for a girl and 13 for a boy) is an age in Jewish tradition when boys and girls discover that the world is not as rosy as they thought, said Rivlin.
“But you have known this from an early age,” he said. “You have had to take on responsibility too soon and too fast. Some of you know loved ones only from photographs. Some of you are victims of terror.”
Rivlin paused momentarily to pay tribute to the memory of Hodaya Asulin, who died almost exactly a year ago after six years of struggle. Asulin, at age 14, was waiting for a bus in Jerusalem when there was a massive explosion by the bus stop. She suffered extensive brain damage and remained in a vegetative state for the rest of her life.
Her brother, Yehuda Yosef, and their parents were present at the President’s Residence, because Yehuda Yosef was among those who were celebrating their bar mitzvah.
“They’re celebrating with you,” Rivlin told the crowd. “Each of you has a personal story. We were with you in your grief and your pain and we are with you in your joy.”
He lamented the fact that Israel is still lacking in peace and quiet, and noted that some of the youngsters are from the south of the country and have grown up under the threat of rocket attacks.
“I’m not going to do anything to strengthen you,” he said, “because you are the strongest of people. You are all heroes.”
Nehorai Zarka Ben-Saadon was eight and a half months old when his father Michael was killed in a terrorist attack in Eilat in 2007. Speaking on behalf of all those present he said that his father had been a happy and generous individual whom he tries to emulate. He paid respect to his grandfather, who has been a central figure in his life. Although he comes from a bereaved family, said Ben-Saadon, he grew up in a home that was happy despite the pain and nostalgia.
Rivlin insisted that the boy’s grandfather sit alongside him.
When it was announced that popular singer Stephane Legar would provide the entertainment, the youngsters went wild. Some mounted the stage to sing and dance with him, while others, ignoring previous instructions not to take photos, excitedly made use of the cameras in their cell phones.
The energetic and effervescent Legar, with the elastic body movements, inspired Rivlin to jump on stage in an attempt to imitate him. They did a brief duet before the president resumed his seat.
The Organization of Victims of Terror was founded by Yehoshua Cohen, who had himself been a victim of terror as a child, and wanted to prove to other children that with willpower, one can overcome almost anything. Cohen, who was the chairman of the organization, died two years ago, and the chairmanship was taken over by Abie Moses of Alfei Menashe, whose wife, Ofra, and 5-year-old son Tal were killed by a fire bomb in 1987. Moses was able to get all three of his children plus a friend of theirs out of the burning car. His wife was strapped in and he couldn’t release her. Tal died in hospital. His other children Nir and Adi were badly burned as was Moses himself. He still carries the scars.
“This is an emotional day completely dedicated to you,” Moses told the boys and girls. He wished them success in all their endeavors and assured them that they have the ability to overcome all obstacles. “Believe me, it is possible to be happy and to get on with life, even when you are severely injured,” he said, adding “unfortunately terror continues to exact a heavy price.”
Meir Spiegel, the director-general of the National Insurance Institute, which is deeply engaged in the lives of victims of terror, said that it was a privilege to accompany the youngsters as they matured. He urged them to think not so much of what was, but rather what will be.
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