Child victims of terrorism celebrate Bar and Bat Mitzvahs

December 30, 2014 by J-Wire News Service
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Israel’s President Reuven and First Lady Nechama Rivlin, have held a Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebration, at the President’s residence for 50 children… victims of terrorist attacks.


President Rivlin with Yigal Faizkov, Nadav Wollensky and Michelle Levine     Photo: Mark Neyman

President Rivlin with Yigal Paizkov, Nadav Wolanski and Michelle Levine               Photo: Mark Neyman/GPO

The children’s celebrations began at the Western Wall in Jerusalem and ended with a ceremony at which the President congratulated them on reaching ‘the age of mitzvoth’.

Among the children who celebrated their Bar and Bat Mitzvah’s were three orphans: Yigal Paizkov, whose parents, Oleg and Ludmilla, were killed in the terror attack on the Hilton hotel in Taba in October 2004.  Yigal’s grandparents are raising him and his older brother Daniel (19); Michelle Levine, whose parents Eitan and Rima, were killed in a shooting attack near the Shoket intersection in February 2004. Michelle was their only daughter and was adopted by her aunt; Nadav Wolanski, whose parents, Abraham-Isaac (Avi) and Avital Yocheved, were killed in shooting attack in August 2002 on the Ramallah-Nablus road. Nadav has an older brother, Yigal (15), who was also injured in the attack.

Also participating  were boys and girls who are bereaved siblings and children whose relatives were wounded in terrorist attacks. The event was also attended by Chairman of The Terror Victims Association, Yehoshua Cohen; CEO of the National Insurance Institute, Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef; and singer Moshe Peretz.

The President told the children  “On this special day, during which you celebrate the acceptance of the commandments, I’m happy to have the privilege to take part in your joyous occasion. The Bar Mitzvah day is a day in which you turn from children into adults. To date it was not required of you to take on the responsibility of an adult, but from now on you are a part of the adult community, which requires of you both responsibility and commitment.

The Jewish life cycle, is a circle ranging from sadness to joy, from joy to sadness. Each and every one of us has experienced in life, moments of joy and thanksgiving, and moments grief and loss. Even at the most happy of occasions we do not forget our loved ones, the father, mother, brother or sister, who aren’t able to celebrate with us here today. There is a price to our being Jewish, to our independence, sometimes, the price is too high and almost always, the price we pay is unbearable. An unbearable price that each one of you knows first-hand, but there is also a lot of power and strength which should be remembered.  Celebrating with us tonight are Orel and Addisu. Orel Yalizarov was mortally injured by a Grad rocket during Operation Cast Lead when he was 8-year-old. Despite the serious injury and against all odds, through force of will and strength, faith and hard work, you have succeeded, Orel, to recover wonderfully and we are proud and excited to celebrate with you here tonight. Also celebrating with us is Addisu Takla. Addisu’s family immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia with great hopes and dreams for a new beginning in Israel. Addisu and his family also paid a heavy price for being Jewish and living in this country – when they lost their mother in a terror attack shortly after immigrating. Orel and Addisu represent all of you here, your life cycle – the sadness, sorrow, joy, constantly dealing with injuries and longing for the beloved family member who will never return. The people of Israel have never lost hope, and our faith has not waned. Thanks to our faith and determination, and above all the knowledge that the responsibility for our fate rests on our shoulders alone, we were able to return to our country and to our homeland. ”

At the end of his statement, President Rivlin added: “Dear boys and girls, we love you and are proud of you. You have paid a heavy price, but you deserve unlimited joy. The people of Israel and the State of Israel will accompany you along your way and throughout your adult life. I am sure all of you will be a source of hope and pride to your loving families. On this joyous day I wish for you to continue to hope and to dream big dreams. But mostly I wish you the wisdom to accept with open arms the responsibility placed upon you, as mature young adults and for you to create a better world for us all. I am hopeful that this new chapter will open up a positive set of experiences and good memories and will bring good fortune to you and your families. Congratulations.”

Orel Mamistalov, a 12-year-old girl, who was the youngest daughter of the late Joseph Mamistalov, the bus driver who was killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up on a bus in Tel Aviv in 2002, told the President and his wife, “A month and a half after I was born, my father was killed in a terrorist attack. That day my father drove the No. 4 ‘Dan’ bus. As he passed the Great Synagogue on Allenby Street, a bomb went off. My father recognised there was a terrorist and prevented him from getting on the bus, thereby saving the lives of dozens of passengers on the bus. I grew up in the reality of a fatherless life, only recognising my father from pictures and stories and without a memory of a hug or kiss from a father.  A childhood without a father is a difficult childhood. The fact that my father is not with me physically is very difficult, but he is always in my heart. My father’s absence is felt particularly at important stages in my life like the first day of first grade, the transition from kindergarten to elementary school and the transition from elementary school to high school, and the significant stage in my life at the moment, knowing that he is not here to celebrate with me my Bat Mitzvah.”

Yehoshua Cohen, Chairman of The Terror Victims Association said, “The Bar and Bat Mitzvah ceremony that the organization hosts has become a tradition for 12 years now, and there is one aspect that is particularly significant. Each and every one of these children paid a personal and heavy price during the years of their short life so far – the death or injury of a family member in a terrorist attack. I believe that in the Bar and Bat Mitzvah ceremony we have the ultimate answer to all those terror organizations that aspire to kill us and destroy our lives in Israel – it symbolizes that they will never be able to do so.”

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