* Translation by Yehoshua Siskin ([email protected])
Rabbi Mendy Ashkenazi, Chabad emissary in the Eilot-Arava region of southern Israel, wrote to me as follows:
A Bar MItzvah like that of Ariel Cohen I had never seen. It took place in the community of Be'er Ora, in the southern Arava, twenty kilometers (twelve miles) north of Eilat.
The great-grandfather of Ariel is Yitzchak Barkan, known as 'Geva,' from Ramat Hasharon. He is 89 years old, a lieutenant colonel in the IDF reserves, formerly a fighter pilot and air force commanding officer. He came from central Israel especially to participate in the Bar Mitzvah of his first great-grandson. At the conclusion of the Torah reading, he spoke as follows:
'I am 89 years old and this is the first time in my life that I have entered a synagogue. Not even once in my life have I participated in a prayer service or any other event in a synagogue. And I just want to express how emotionally moved I was by this special ceremony, as beautiful and inspiring as it has been.'
He spoke about his upbringing on Kibbutz Givat HaShlosha. When he reached the age of 13, they recognized this milestone with a delivery of 13 bananas to his room; that was the extent of the celebration. I asked him if he ever put on tefillin and he answered that he never had, but now he would like to do that.
And here something incredible happened: The Bar Mitzvah boy -- the grandson Ariel -- took off his new pair of tefillin and put them on his great-grandfather. I do not know which of them was more emotionally affected by this act.
They say that a Bar Mitzvah is a link in a chain of tradition that keeps moving forward, generation after generation. But in this case, another kind of link to tradition was created, one that went backwards in time.
The video below captures these memorable moments."