June 24, 2014, Israel
Last week I was invited to my cousin Michal's bat mitzvah. She is actually the daughter of a second cousin. And although I make a point of attending all family celebrations I must admit that I really do not know the young lady. In fact I told my students on our Tour and Train program that I was on the way to a Bar Mitzvah.
My confusion is excusable on the grounds of being over worked, busy, and like the rest of us terribly concerned over the national crises of three young men abducted and the real possibility of an all out conflict.
To be honest, it did not feel like a time of celebration.
I must admit I was taken by surprise, a very pleasant and proud surprise. Although the atmosphere was happy and all the twelve year old girls were jumping around and dancing, there was still a strong undertone of deep concern for the welfare of "the boys".
In fact it was not even an undertone. The Bat Mitzvah "adopted" one of the boys, Naftali Frankel, may God watch over him and product him along with all of them.
On each table were several pens and writing paper and a large area to deposit notes.
Each guest was asked to write "Words of support and strength to the family", words to show that we all share their pain and their concern, that they are not alone.
When the mother of the Bat Mitzvah girl, cousin Hadassah, got up to speak, her words totally reflected the mood of the country. She spoke of the pain we all feel at this time. The theme of the event was centered around the concern for the missing young men. The happiness was subdued.
At a break in the music it was announced that ...as we are all feeling the pain there will be a few songs devoted to the men taken hostage. The next song was....Watch over us, Father in heaven, the way one watches over children.
Happiness mixed with sadness, joy with pain, celebration with concern. For this is truly the story of Israel.
When the young woman, my cousin Michal, got up to deliver her Bat Mitzvah address, the first thing I noticed were her beautiful golden locks. I wondered what side of the family such beautiful hair came from and then, she promptly announced, that was donating her hair to cancer patients.
What a young woman! Her speech was about Hesed, Kindness, and the many projects of kindness that she and her friends are involved with.
I thought of her family. Of her father Gilad, same name as one of the young men taken, as a child in America. And now here he is in Israel raising such a magnificent Israeli family.
Yes, they speak English fluently, but "We are no longer in Kansas". These are no longer American Jews, these are Israelis, these are fighters.
I felt proud to be at such a family celebration. And now...the search for the boys continues...