Bar Mitzva Trip for Darca Yeshivatit Hamatmid School Pupils, Kiryat Shemona
Jerusalem as a Link in Our Heritage
Yardena Nachtomi, Director, Secondary School Department, KIAH
What does Jerusalem mean to me? Is it just another capital city? Is it like Paris for the French? This question cut through the air. We thought it insufficient to ask this important question from within the classroom or school halls in Kiryat Shemona, and felt that pupils about to reach adolescence and celebrate their Bar Mitzvah should become acquainted with the city and develop their commitment to it by experiencing it firsthand, through their own feet, hearts and minds.
And so, during the week between Yom Yerushalaim and Shavuout – the festival that marks the giving of the Torah, and during which the mitzvah of tefillin was given to our nation – Kiryat Shemona’s Hamatmid School’s pupils and parents left for a Bar Mitzvah trip to Jerusalem. We began with a tour of the Old City walls to become acquainted with the historic, geological, sociological and religious layers of the city and with their significance to the people of Israel. We came down the walls to the Western Wall and, following afternoon Minha prayers, left for the Mishkenot Shaananim and Yemin Moshe neighborhoods, where we were told the unique story of the neighborhood’s Sephardi synagogue congregation.
Haim Yom Tov, the cantor and beagle who walks to the synagogue every Shabbat from Beit Lehem Street, recounted the synagogue’s history to the pupils. Yemin Moshe, prior to 1967, was a border neighborhood in all senses. New immigrants, mainly from Turkey, who could barely make a livelihood, had to also deal with gunfire coming from the Jordanian side of the border, all of which made life in the neighborhood particularly difficult. Nevertheless, the new olim managed to renovate the Sephardi synagogue that had been built prior to the 1948 War of Independence. After the war, however, their courageous stand during those difficult times was forgotten by the establishment, and when the neighborhood residents were forced to relocate, they received only a pittance from the municipal authorities. They did try to resist, but most were forced to leave their homes.
Over the 1970’s the picturesque streets of the neighborhood were restored and the residents were replaced by artists, media personalities and by residents from abroad who spend only their summer months in Israel. The synagogue congregation refused to give in, and though they had been uprooted from the neighborhood, nobody could uproot Yemin Moshe from their hearts. They come to pray at the splendidly designed and renovated synagogue every Shabbat since.
The late Prime Minister Menahem Begin had a unique love and commitment towards Jerusalem. It was astounding to discover the gap between the pupils – not one of whom was acquainted with this great figure – and their parents, who were very moved by the photographs that were, for them, part of their life experience and not distant history. The children’s curiosity at their parents’ emotions created the opportunity for a living encounter with history between the 1977 electoral upheaval and their lives in 2012. Parents shared their memories of Menahem Begin, the man and the leader, of the social processes that developed, of conflicts and struggles – adding yet another historic layer of information to the pupils.
The link between Jerusalem and wearing tefillin has its roots in the same place: The freedom to wear tefillin anywhere, at any time and in security is one of the outcomes of our return to Zion; to be free of the fear that a “king who did not know Joseph” might arise and impose decrees of any sort.
The pupils expressed their deep appreciation of the highly invested trip and their thanks for this important stage towards their entry into spiritual adulthood. The Bar Mitzvah trip to Jerusalem is part of the comprehensive goal set jointly by KIAH and the RASHI Foundation to promote Jewish, educational and social dialogue in school. The program operates in three main domains: leadership, school-community relations, and Jewish and Israeli identity. KIAH Darca plan to hold similar trips for all Bar Mitzvah age pupils in the school network.