Dozens of 7th graders in three youth villages supported by the Spirit of Israel – Ben Yakir, Kiryat Yearim and Hadassah – have participated in a special bar/bat mitzvah program throughout the school year, full of challenges and activities related and leading up to the big event. At the end of the year, all of them celebrated in a unique and emotional bar/bat mitzvah ceremony attended by their families.

At Kiryat Yearim, 12 boys and girls participated in a program that included 13 challenges. The first challenged them to make something for themselves, while the following challenges requested that they make something for their group, their village, their family, and their country. The kids also got to make a personal dream come true: some chose to skydive, others swam with dolphins, some kids got to take a cross-country flight tour, while some of the kids made their dream of travelling in a limo come true. In the final event, which was held this June, the kids’ families were invited to the village, and then they all traveled together to Jerusalem, for a joyous bar/bat mitzvah ceremony and celebration at the Western Wall.

At Ben Yakir, the bar/bat mitzvah kids participated in a year-round program which included activities centered on the meaning and consequences of coming of age, mutual responsibility, connecting to their roots and Judaism. They participated in seminars as well as a special drug-abuse prevention program tailored to the special challenges faced by at-risk youth. This June, the Ben Yakir kids went out on a 2-day trip: they met their parents for a joint celebratory picnic in the Ben Shemen Forest, and then went on to Mezada. At first light, they got up to lay phylacteries (Tefillin) and then enjoyed a hearty breakfast and a special activity related to their bat/bat mitzvah. They finished the day by touring the Ein Gedi area, and went back to the village tired and very happy.

At Hadassah, 15 boys and girls enjoyed a year-round program that included day trips and activities related to their Israeli and Jewish identities, and the meanings attached to the bar/bat mitzvah ceremony. This year, the Spirit of Israel even got to treat the kids to a special gift – a tablet for each bar/bat mitzvah boy and girl! In May, the kids and their families travelled together to a special bar/bat mitzvah ceremony in Jerusalem. The kids presented what they’ve learned throughout the year, enjoyed a tour of the Jewish Quarter, marched to the Western Wall, and of course – participated in an emotional bar/bat mitzvah ceremony.