I was really lucky to go to Israel (again) for a short break with the family. We did, saw, walked and ate (and sweated – thanks Israeli summer) so much I can’t even begin to tell you. I’m going to split it all into 3 simple posts: The Barmitzvah, the food (it really does deserve it’s own post), and “everything else” 😉
The purpose for going was my brother’s Bar-Mitzvah – if you’re not Jewish, I don’t if you know what that is beside for what you see/hear in movies or on TV. It’s a coming of age thing, when a boy turns 13 and is considered a “man” with all sorts of obligations and such. My family decided it would be more fitting (and meaningful) to take the 5 of us up to Israel and celebrate in an intimate do as opposed to the lavish functions/almost-weddings that are done these days. We also have family (including my brother who moved there last year and now serves in the Israeli army) and family friends up in Israel, especially because we lived there for a while when I was little. Despite that, it was my little brother’s first time, and my mom’s first time since we left the country. I feel terribly spoilt that this was my 5th trip to Israel, excluding living there.
My parents decided that my brother would have his ceremony at the Western Wall, the Kotel. This wall is the last remaining wall of the temple in Jerusalem, housed within the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. I (not-so-secretly) love the Old City, it has so much charm and personality of an era gone by with all the Jerusalem stone everywhere, old buildings and so much history.
I won’t go into too much detail about mine and Greg’s transport drama to make it to the Kotel on time. We were staying at my friend, walked the wrong way to the train, and basically were never going to make it. 60 shekels and a taxi later, we made it with about – 5 minutes to go. While I find taxi’s a waste of money in Israel, when time is not on your side – you just gotta do what you gotta do. It did help that the taxi driver was really friendly and chatty – he told us we need to make Aliyah (move to Israel. Obviously. This happened numerous times on our trip), asked how long we’d been married, told us we should wait to have kids (not like he did – he married his wife when he was 19 and had kids soon after) and about how expensive property is in Jerusalem. It kinda put me at ease after the freaking out before.
The ceremony itself was really great. Now, the plaza at the Western Wall is a busy one with an area each for the men and women. Having been there many times before (note: 5 Israel trips) I was worried the women wouldn’t be able to hear anything, but was pleasantly surprised. We had a station right up against the wall, which was pretty awesome (and made for some great pictures – read, instagrams) and there were chairs on the women’s side for us to stand on and peer over the mechitzah (the partition that separate the men and the women).
It was normal Thursday morning davening (prayer service), which includes taking out the Torah, which Ryan then read from. It’s really quite a feat: firstly, it’s in Hebrew. Secondly, the words actually need to be sung to a tune, and the markings that tell you the tune aren’t in the Torah itself – you have to learn it all yourself by heart beforehand. Greg does this often for different communities on a Saturday morning, but for a 13 year old, it’s a big deal! The boy read so well, we were all so proud! To celebrate afterwards, we went for a small lunch at a restaurant in the Old City called Holy Bagels (true story. And Greg and I ate there 3 times during our 9 day trip).
I had my reservations about doing such a milestone this way, but I think it went so well and we all had such a great and special time spent with our closest family. And for milestones, I guess that’s kind of what’s important.