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PA Angered by Bar Mitzvah Tradition

PA rep. expresses outrage over the tradition of celebrating bar mitzvahs at the Western Wall. Rabbi: They’re embarrassing themselves.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 9/23/2012, 6:18 PM

Bar mitzvah at the Kotel
Bar mitzvah at the Kotel
Flash 90

A Palestinian Authority official has expressed outrage over Jewish bar mitzvah celebrations at the Western Wall (Kotel). Ahmed Kariya, head of a PA committee on Jerusalem affairs, told Al-Ayyam that the coming-of-age celebrations are an attempt to complete the Israeli “occupation” of Jerusalem.

A Muslim group called the Al-Aqsa Organization agreed, and told Al-Ayyam that the ceremonies constitute an attempt to “Judaize” Muslim holy places.

During the bar mitzvah celebrations, young men celebrate turning 13 and becoming obligated to keep Torah law by reading from the Torah.

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation responded to the PA claims with disdain. Those who are enraged by the bar mitzvah ceremonies “are embarrassing themselves, and are showing who they are and what they really want,” said Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Places.

The Western Wall is the natural place to celebrate a bar mitzvah, he said. “At this age, the child moves into the adult world, and accepts upon himself the obligation to uphold mitzvot (commandments) and to keep the chain of Jewish tradition alive. At this age he is ready to internalize the meaning of his Jewishness. There is no better place than the Western Wall for this moment,” Rabbi Rabinovich explained.

Six years ago, he said, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation began helping families who were planning a bar mitzvah at the holy site in order to ensure they could celebrate “without obstacles or interruptions.” The project “was successful beyond our expectations,” he said.

“I am pained to see that such a beautiful project, something natural to every Jew, is being exploited for cheap politics,” he added.

Rabbi Rabinovich recently sent an angry letter to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas after the latter denied the Jewish connection to Jerusalem. The PA has denied the Jewish history of the Temple Mount and Western Wall for years.