Part I – The Spiritual Journey To Jerusalem for the B’Nai Mitzvah – August 16, 2013
This past weekend we “Partied Hard with the Juricks” at Edison Ballroom (Part 2 here). However, as we anxiously await the photos from Clay Blackmore, and video from Hart Pictures, I wanted to share the meaningful reason why we celebrate in the first place. Our kids are 15 months apart, do everything together, and have the closest bond to each other. We decided as a family to read from the Torah together and have a shared b’nai mitzvah service in Jerusalem. B’nai mitzvah is the plural word, meaning more than one mitzvah. According to Jewish law, when Jewish boys become 13 years old, they become accountable for their actions and become a bar mitzvah. A girl becomes a bat mitzvah at the age of 12.
With deep family roots of aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and until recently, great grandparents in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Netanya – this was the perfect opportunity to make the spiritual journey to read from the Torah at the Wall in Jerusalem.
Our New York City Temple Sharay Tefila was supportive and shaped their Torah reading practice.
We held our service at Robinson’s Arch – an area along the western wall of the Temple Mount, at a very short distance from the Western Wall plaza. The location is within the Jerusalem Archaeological Park, a gold mine for Israeli archaeologists, This site’s most dramatic and monumental finds were from the Herodian period, the late 1st century BC. To allow men and women to pray together within the same location, the Israeli Government recently enacted a law to allow the area to be used for alternative services. In 2003 Israel’s Supreme Court disallowed women from reading the Torah or wearing traditional prayer shawls at the plaza itself, yet instructed the Israeli government to prepare the site of Robinson’s Arch to host such events. Robinson’s Arch is the name given to an arch that once stood at the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount.
When we entered the archaeological park at 9am and saw the piercing royal blue sky, we began to embrace each other for the ritual that was about to occur. I felt overwhelmed by the power and gravity of the event. I had heard of the Jerusalem syndrome, and felt a similar sense of the deep spiritual connection to Holy Land.
However, when our children read from the Torah, their inner light beamed brighter than the sun, and Gal & I had never been more proud in our entire life. It was one the most special experiences of our life. Words cannot do it justice.
If you can make the journey to Jerusalem for your child’s Mitzvah, you will be rewarded with emotional riches beyond your imagination. We’d like to deeply thank Cantor Evan Cohen and Rabbi Ada Zbidov of Kehilat Har-El congregation. Please contact them if you plan your Mitzvah in Jerusalem. They are two of the kindest, warmest, most gentle and loving people we have ever met. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
The following photographs were pulled from still frames on the film that Jesse Hartman from Hart Pictures captured during the event. Hart Pictures has been making award-winning independent films since the 1990’s and their work has screened from Sundance to Reykjavik, and their short film received the Best Short Film Award at the Berlin International Film Festival. We would like to take a moment to share how incredibly grateful we are to have Jesse and his beautiful family join us for this incredible journey. Jesse, you captured the essence of the event better than we could have imagined – thank you, thank you thank you!
Here’s the short film by Jesse Hartman of Hart Pictures
The evening prior to the service we went to the overlook at Mount Scopus and took family photos.
During our trip in Jerusalem we toured the Kotel Tunnels. I captured some photographs inside the Kotel Tunnels which were one of the coolest places in Jerusalem. Simply amazing excavations that allow you to walk along the length of the Western Wall (Kotel), peer down into previous historical times and stand opposite the Holy of Holies of the Temple, where prayers are inserted into the cracks of the walls. Hidden layers of the Wall are revealed underground. They tell the story of ancient Jerusalem and construction/destruction/re-construction of the great temples and multiple religions. You must book the tour at least 3-5 months in advance!
When we exited the dark underground passagways, we were deposited into the Arabic quarter and wandered through the narrow streets and spice markets and had one of the most famous falafel lunches in Jerusalem.
Israel is such a beautiful country and has so many sight-seeing options for vacationers. We took a tour of the north towards Tiberias and swam in the Sea of Galilea. We went white-water rafting along the Jordan River.
The Big Photo Shoot in Jaffa
Jaffa is the southern, oldest part of Tel Aviv-Jaffa (since 1950), an ancient port city in Israel. Jaffa is famous for its association with the biblical stories of Solomon, Jonah, and Saint Peter. It’s visually ancient and modern at the same time, and was the perfect backdrop for a series of photo shoots with my kids. I took Jonah and Eden on a bike ride from Tel Aviv to Jaffa separately each day to explore and make portraits for the party. We came away with some GEMS! These were used in the decor of the party magnificently designed by Jennifer Gould.
Jonah & Eden’s cousin, Itai. The boy with the most magnificent eyes!
I guess beautiful eyes run in our family…
I also took a series of infrared photographs while in Jaffa to capture the essence of it’s biblical age.