Written by: Hod Yehoshua, Counselor of Oren group
My name is Hod Yehoshua, I am a second year counselor in Ben Yakir Youth Village. This year I was a counselor of the kids in the 7th grade, Oren group, and guided them through the Bar Mitzvah project.
Most of the kids in the village come from a family background of poverty and distress, one that does not allow them to hold a family event in the scope of a Bar Mitzvah celebration. The village gives them the opportunity to celebrate, mark the special occasion in a dignified event just like any Jewish child.
The Bar Mitzvah program includes a few exciting events: beginning with a trip to Jerusalem, a ceremony at the Western Wall - where the kids led a very exciting prayer. The kids read the torah and were received with much love and sympathy from the people around them. It was a magical day that continued in a festive lunch and concluded in a magnificent ceremony of Bar Mitzvah boys from Youth Villages across Israel, held in the Hebrew University.
Another exciting event was a jeep ride to the north, an enjoyable experience which was a first for many of our students. The kids enjoyed themselves very much and some of them even mentioned this was an unforgettable experience for them.
At the next day, the parents and the families arrived to the village, to take part in a magical Bar Mitzvah Shabbat with their kids. It was extremely exciting to see the joy and satisfaction in the parents eyes, and the pride and excitement the kids experienced. The Shabbat was filled with festive meals accompanied with Shabbat songs and D'var Torah led by the staff and the families. Furthermore, many exciting prayers and activities. The village was filled with 150 people from a wide range of background, places and ethnicities, that never met each other before - but nevertheless there was a big family feeling. We concluded a very successful Shabbat.
Another significant event was a flight to Eilat. One day, filled with activities and attractions. The kids visited the dolphins' reef, the underwater observatory, watched a 3D movie at the theatre and more. The kids were overwhelmed by the experience and very excited. The experience of going on a plane, for the first time in their lives, arriving to Eilat and its' unique atmosphere, and the many attractions they visited. The experience was very powerful. The kids were incredible and on their best behavior. It was a testament to their gratitude for everything they received from the village.
The concluding and most important event is the Bar Mitzvah party that was celebrated for all the Bar Mitzvah boys and their families. A very moving ceremony, in which they received many gifts, and experiences. The kids performed on stage in an impressive show, singing a song dedicated to their mothers. The ceremony included the guest of honor - Chairman of the Jewish Agency - Natan Sharansky, and many other respectful guests.
On a personal note - I found myself extremely excited in this ceremony, as if it was my own kids' Bar Mitzvah. I was filled with a feeling of pride and joy to see these amazing kids that I have worked with all year long, dressed elegantly and tastefully, festive and representable. This feeling connected with the kids' feelings. I felt there are results to the hard work that was put into these kids all year. It was the highlight of a long and complex process of learning and growing up, including challenges along the way. In front of our eyes, they turned from kids to teens, which we, with our own hands, have helped form.
I feel that I have received a big opportunity, to guide these amazing kids, which I love dearly, throughout this age - 13 - which is challenging and hard. To accompany them in the process of maturity and to be with them in all these moments - the hard and hurtful as well as the moments of success and satisfaction.