More than two dozen children of fallen Israeli soldiers, as well as the son of an American serviceman who died in Afghanistan, celebrated their bar and bat mitzvahs in Jerusalem this month in a group ceremony conducted by the IDF Widows and Orphans Organization.
The children, ages 12 and 13, met with the army’s chief rabbi on Oct. 13, hours ahead of the event, to receive pairs of tefillin, leather boxes containing scriptural passages that Jewish men wear on their arms and heads during prayer when they reach adulthood.
“A child should be able to begin this journey with the hand of their father on their shoulder and with their presence when they make their choices on becoming adults,” said Shlomi Nahumson, director of the group’s youth department.
“There’s no way we can bring their fathers back to them. But we can put our hands on their shoulders, so they know they’re not alone, and that we appreciate the sacrifices their parents made.”
During an evening gala, as multicolored strobe lights illuminated the room, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin addressed the youngsters, accompanied by Chief of the General Staff Gabi Eizenkot, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and other senior officials.