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ICEJ AID in action!

Close to 30 Holocaust survivors mark bar/bat mitzvahs in Jerusalem

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Posted on: 
21 Jul 2015
ICEJ AID in action!

A busload of Holocaust Survivors from the Haifa Home and Survivors who enjoy the friendship and services of the Home together with their dedicated staff left Haifa early Monday morning, July 13th, for a very special event.

Some 30 Survivors whose bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah fell during World War II marked this Jewish rite of passage to adulthood at the Western Wall. There was much excitement when a special police escort guided them from the entrance of Jerusalem to the Western Wall. At the Plaza the 80 and 90 plus year old people got out of the bus and with Israeli flags started to sing and dance with the crowd that awaited them. This Holocaust generation who had missed this important celebration in their youth and who in their childhood had only heard the words at the end of the Pesach Seder “Next year in Jerusalem”, had arrived at the Western Wall the symbol of their spiritual heritage and century deep yearning.

The group passed a line of IDF soldiers who saluted them with honor and respect. Chief Rabbi David Lau greeted the Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah participants and together with MK Yair Lapid the male participants received phylacteries and prayer shawls. Close to the Western Wall the male participants donned phylacteries and read from the Torah, while onlookers threw candy at them as is customary for boys and girls in Israel. Tears of joy rolled over some of the faces but also some of grief as many had survived the Holocaust but were left orphaned without parents or extended family.
“I experienced such a joy being in Jerusalem and celebrating my belated Bar Mitzvah” said Yaacov W. “It felt like a stone fell from my heart.”

As Yaacov is religious and goes to synagogue every week, he was called upon to say the blessing at the end of the ceremony and also “kaddish” the mourner’s prayer which theme is the Greatness of God.

“I felt like a boy of 13 and for a while I forgot all the difficult things in my life and so treasured the moment and the fact that I am still alive to come to this day,” said Yossi C., who was unable to sleep the night before the ceremony.

Shoshanna K. of 95 touched the Western Wall which such intensity and poured out her heart to God in Yiddish.  Her face was lit up with such delight and joy.

After all the emotions of the celebration at the Wall the Chief Rabbi blessed the male and female participants before they boarded the bus again to go to their next destination the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. This was the next emotional highlight of the day. For many of the Survivors this was the first time they visited the Knesset and after a guided tour they were officially welcomed by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.
“There is no one more worthy than you to come to the Knesset and be met with blessings and appreciation,” Edelstein told the group. “Your youth was stolen from you and you nonetheless chose to live. You came to Israel and established the next generations.”

Coming to the Knesset, the symbol of Israel’s sovereignty as a State was indeed another highlight. “They gave us honor and appreciation, which was wonderful” said one of the Survivors.

After the Knesset visit the excited group was ready for a festive lunch and made their way back to Haifa. Exhausted physically but excited and charged emotionally they all arrived safely home again.

The next evening there was a festive celebration in one of the wedding halls in Haifa in honor of those who did their Bar Mitzvah at the Western Wall. Besides the residents of the Home and other Survivors, children and grandchildren of the Survivors came to celebrate.  The hall was beautifully decorated and food was available in abundance, while everyone came with excitement and dressed for a party.

After the blessing from the Rabbi of the Home music filled the hall and many made their way to the dance floor. Survivors in their 80ties and 90ties were moving with the rhythm of Israeli songs and joy was visible on their faces. Grand children and children joined in the celebration and the hall with filled with such a wonderful peace and excitement.

Through it all there was a feeling of victory. They had survived the Holocaust, and had fought in many of Israel’s wars. Today, surrounded with their loved ones they were rejoicing in their own country where they feel safe and living in a Home where they are cared for and not alone.

The ICEJ was proud to be an integral part of this wonderful family celebration. During the Knesset visit, Yad Ezer L’haver  and Haifa Home Director Shimon Sabag told everyone that without the ICEJ there would not be a Home and he constantly mentioned us as a vital part of all they are able to do. Together with the Israeli flags that were waved during the ceremony at the Western Wall also the flag of Yad Ezer L’haver and the ICEJ flag was waved.

By supporting the work and ministry of the ICEJ, you can encourage and bless the people of Israel in very tangible and meaningful ways. Please consider making a donation today:


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