And it was a particularly meaningful occasion for both Josh and me.
Let me take you back seven and a half years. Matan, aged four, had arrived in Israel without knowing a soul and without a word of Hebrew. In this picture, we’ve just gotten off of the plane, and Matan has decided to attach himself to a soldier who had come with his unit to the airport to greet our Nefesh B’Nefesh flight.
We threw Matan into 4 year old nursery school, where not a single child or teacher knew how to communicate with him.
Shoshana and Adina.
They had also arrived during the summer and were, thankfully, in his class. It’s funny to think about all of this now, because Neve Daniel had an influx of Anglo immigrants after we arrived. Virtually every class in the town now has floods of English speakers, and we have to remind our children not to speak English during the day.
But, in those days, Shoshana, Adina and Matan only had each other. The teacher, Etty, had been teaching the same class for more than 20 years, and she said that it was her first experience ever teaching children who didn’t know Hebrew. And she didn’t really know where to begin.
So, our children were the guinea pigs – and the teachers. We explained to Etty that she should have our kids sit near her when she reads aloud so that they can see the pictures, and we offered other hints.
And then we sort of threw the kids into the mix and hoped for the best!
After school, Matan would have play dates with Shoshana and Adina and he loved getting together with the only two other kids who understood him.
And now, here we were already celebrating their Bat Mitzvahs.
Of course, it’s been years since Shoshana and Adina had anything to do with Matan (it’s that boy-girl thing, you know!) and they’ve all developed and grown in such beautiful ways.
The girls gave their Dvrei Torah (speeches) in Hebrew, of course, and they danced all night with their gaggles of friends.
And it made me think back to those days and to three little people who had just started out on such an unknown and scary journey.
We all look at our kids and can’t believe, at times, how they’ve grown and changed. But there is an extra element of that feeling of wonder when you’ve picked your child up, moved him across the world, and watched what happens.
It’s amazing today to think about that little boy who knew only English, and knew only two little girls…and to see him going off today to his Bnei Akiva trip surrounded by Hebrew-speaking friends, entrenched in his life in Israel, and preparing for his upcoming Bar Mitzvah next year.
Thanks Shoshana and Adina for being there in the beginning and paving the way with Matan! And Mazal Tov!