For years, Josh and I have remarked that someday Matan would be part of the Daglanut (flag dance) on Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) at the ceremony that we hold in Neve Daniel. The seventh grade boys and girls do a dance each year, waving enormous Israeli flags and filling the basketball court with their excitement and their Zionism.
A few years ago, we started talking about how Matan’s bar mitzvah would fall within a day or two of Yom Ha’atzmaut and how exciting it would be to fill the stands with family and to watch Matan on that evening.
And now the time has come…and gone. I will never understand the passage of time and how it seems to move so very quickly at times, when you anticipate, plan and dream.
And what a dream it was. Matan’s birthday is two days after Yom Ha’atzmaut. But this year, because of how the days fell out, his birthday started Motzei Yom Ha’atzmaut (just as Israel Independence Day ended). We planned and organized, made spreadsheets and planned some more. We had hopes of having some family with us, but never in our wildest dreams assumed we would have as many family members and friends as we did.
Monday night was the ceremony marking the end of Israel Memorial Day and the beginning of Independence Day. We eagerly made our way over to the basketball court with Josh’s parents, my mom and my uncle in tow. The ceremony was amazing and incredibly special. It was made even more touching than I could have imagined when Matan was honored with 11 other yishuv members and brought up in front of the entire yishuv to light a torch. He was honored for his commitment to charity work, for his bar mitzvah and as a representative of all of the youth in the yishuv.
Then, he performed his flag dance, along with his entire grade. Looking back 9 years, I get choked up every time that I think about the long journey that we’ve taken to get our children to Israel. And to think about these little kids from Potomac, Maryland with their Israeli friends, their fluent Hebrew and their love for the Land.
The evening was magical.
The weather forecast for the entire week, unfortunately, called for rain, and we had gone back and forth a million times about moving our party planned for Tuesday indoors. In the end, after personal consultations with a meteorologist in the area, we chose to continue with our dream of having Matan’s bar mitzvah in our yard.
We awoke on Tuesday morning to rain, and I prayed that the gloom would quickly pass and allow us to enjoy. Fortunately, it did, and we started to set up for our party. At 2 pm we gathered at Matsuot Yitzchak (the location of one of the four original yishuvim in Gush Etzion from the 1930’s-40’s) and went on a three hour guided hike. Matan’s friends had a great time, as did our friends and family who joined in the fun. It was cold, it was windy…but they hiked on and enjoyed! The hike was an opportunity to add significance to the typical bar mitzvah party, allowing Matan and his friends to learn more about the Land where they live, to hear about the history of Gush Etzion and explore!
Close friends Ruth and Chaim (not pictured) Sherman joined in the fun with their kids.
Yonatan Sherman organized team building activities as he led the trip.
Even Grandpa and Uncle Don (in the background) hiked along.
Good friends Dean (not pictured) and Devorah joined us from Silver Spring!
The hike ended at our home where we had a joyous party filled with great food (catered by Gavri Greenwald), wonderful family and friends and beautiful music (by Rav Ishai Kornblum, Matan’s second grade teacher). We had worked for weeks (if not longer) to create a video of Matan’s speech so that he wouldn’t spend the party worrying about having to deliver a speech. As a stutterer, Matan’s challenge of giving a speech was not lost on any of us, and we hoped that the video would alleviate some of his worry. It was beautiful and well received, and we got many comments on it afterwards, including from an adult stutterer who said that he still regrets to this day that he didn’t speak at his own bar mitzvah. Matan will not have the same regret.
(Video below is in Hebrew. Message me if you’d like an English translation. But I think it’s worth watching just 30 seconds or so to get the feel for the video. Thank you amazing video editor!)
Party time for Romi and Stella
My mom with Matan, me and Yehuda
During the rest of the week, more family slowly arrived, including my dad, brother and cousins from Los Angeles, my aunt (joining my uncle) from San Diego, and our close friends from Silver Spring. We were 22 people by the time Friday rolled around.
All photography by Kinamon Ron – highly recommended!
Josh’s parents with the kids
My dad and brother with the kids
Uncle Don, Aunt Marilyn, cousins Rachel and Andy
Of course, no simcha is complete without a bit of drama, and Amichai made sure to provide it. At 3 pm on Friday, as we were trying to nap everyone, get the food ready for Shabbat, organize and clean, Amichai sliced open his finger and required stitches. Daniel Kasovitz (an oral surgeon in the yishuv) saved the day, ensuring that one of us would not spend Shabbat in the hospital with Amichai!
Returning home stitched, if a bit shaken, Amichai took a nap and his mother looked for some Valium. And then Shabbat began.
The goosebumps began for me when we lit candles. Gathered in my family room were many of the people that I love most in the world, reciting the candle lighting prayers together. It was a very powerful moment, which led to a beautiful Shabbat. We enjoyed delicious food (all catered by Fagie Reves), had beautiful singing led by Dean and Devorah Grayson and Jeff and Devra Fantl and remarked to our families and friends what a gift it was to share the event with all of them.
Matan was amazing in shul, reading all 144 pasukim without a glimpse of nervous energy (which can’t be said for his mother) and candy (including 288 fruit roll-ups that my father brought from the States!) rained down on the expectant children as he received his Aliyah and finished reading.
We ate a wonderful lunch, played games all afternoon with our family, enjoyed Seudah Shlisheet and then bid adieu to Shabbat and to most of our families.
The next morning, as I drove Matan and Yehuda to school, I asked them what their favorite part of the entire week was. I expected them to say something about the party, about the funny hats we gave out, or the meat that we ate, or the music that was playing.
“Shabbat.” Matan said. “Mommy, I think that was the best Shabbat of my entire life.”
Matan has received some lovely gifts for his bar mitzvah.
But those lines?
Those were my bar mitzvah gifts, to cherish and enjoy for years to come.