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My Son's Bar Mitzvah, Under Fire

Shalom Sivan, This is Dalia Harel from Sderot. This Shabbat we celebrated the bar mitzvah of our son, Noam. We spent months preparing for the bar mitzvah, inviting guests from all over the country, and setting up a serious kiddush for the entire community. Noam read all of Parshat Kedoshim beautifully: 'You shall be holy,' 'Love your neighbor as yourself,' 'Honor the elderly'- all the wonderful mitzvot that appear in the weekly Torah portion. And then, during Birkat HaKohanim, the Priestly Blessing, we suddenly heard incoming rocket barrages. Some of our guests are not used to that, and they began to run around, not sure what to do. Some of the bomb shelters wouldn't open, and the joy which had filled the hall just moments before was replaced by fear. The experienced Sderot residents did their best to calm down the guests, offering encouragement and demonstrating resilience. The moment seared in my memory was when one frightened mother wrapped her two children close to her in her arms, and I walked over and wrapped all three of them in mine. Our amazing community members began arriving at the hall in large numbers, in order to give a hug and provide encouragement, so the bar mitzvah wouldn't be destroyed. They danced and sang with Noam, lifting him on their shoulders, while in the background there were sirens and explosions. We had a great deal of food left over afterward (many of our guests rushed home and did not stay for the meal) so we donated it to the appreciative soldiers at the nearest Iron Dome battery. I'm writing this letter late Saturday night. At this moment, my house is shaking and my children are too, and my phone is crashing from all the messages of encouragement that are coming in from all over.

One of our friends, Liron Tsedaka of Sderot, wrote up something beautiful about what we went through: we had to finish up the prayers quickly, without reading the 1st chapter of Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers, which Jews around the world traditionally started reading this Shabbat. But in Sderot, in our community, even though we didn't read Pirkei Avot, we lived it! We were privileged to see the Ethics of the Fathers, which deals mainly with how people should treat one another, come to life, under fire, at a time of emergency. At this moment I hear another siren, so I have to stop writing. Shavua tov, have a good week."

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