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Our Brave Bat Mitzvah Girls

בנות מצווה של קריית שמונה

* Translated by Janine Muller Sherr

I had the privilege of meeting this week with a very special group of courageous girls: Bat Mitzvah girls from Kiryat Shmona, the city in northern Israel that has been evacuated for months due to Hezbollah shelling from Lebanon.

Three hundred and twenty children attend the “Uziel” School in Kiryat Shmona. Now these students are spread out among more than 100 schools in Israel, from Eilat to Gush Etzion to Haifa.

But the sixth grade girls found a wonderful reason for a reunion in Jerusalem this week: to celebrate their Bat Mitzvahs. Although, sadly, they were forced to grow up a bit too early this year…

We spoke about the difficulties they faced and how much they miss their city. We told jokes about hotels and temporary housing. We saluted their incredible mothers, and I saw how much fun it was for them to meet up again with their principal and teachers whom they haven’t seen for a long time.

But, above all, we spoke about Jewish girls their age over the generations: the 12-year-old girls who went into exile after the destruction of the Temple, from this very place, Jerusalem, and we asked ourselves what gave them the strength to carry on. We thought about the girls who experienced the Exodus from Egypt, the girls who came on Aliyah from Yemen and from Poland when Israel was still a wasteland, and those who lived in Israel in the 1950’s during the early years of the State. We thought about all the girls who became young women, and later mothers, during the thousands of years of our nation’s history. And we discussed how life has always been a journey filled with uncertainty.

And yet, I told them, despite all the chaos, they have been given the greatest present possible: stability, identity, an anchor, a sense of belonging, and a sense of meaning: 613 precious gifts (mitzvot).

I wish the warmest Mazal Tov to the Bat Mitzvah girls of Kiryat Shmona on becoming young adults.  Welcome to the club called, “The Jewish People.”


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