President Rivlin and child victims of terrorism
President Rivlin and child victims of terrorismMark Neiman, GPO

President Reuven on Monday hosted a festive event at the President's Residence celebrating the Bar and Bat Mitzvahs of 58 children who are victims of terrorist attacks.

The event was a celebratory end to a day packed with activities in Jerusalem designed for the children by the Association of Victims of Terrorism.

In his opening remarks, Rivlin congratulated the boys and girls celebrating their reaching their Bar and Bat Mitzvot.

“Dear beloved Bar and Bat Mitzvah, today is a special day of celebration for both you and me. I am privileged to participate with you in this joyous and important event. Today you mark the transition from ‘childhood to adulthood,” he said, adding, “According to Jewish tradition, the Bar Mitzvah event symbolizes the acceptance of personal responsibility and independence.

“You young people, who make up the family of the victims of terrorism, have had to handle some of these pressures too soon and too quickly. From an early age you handled loss, pain, responsibility, changes and physical and mental difficulties. You have had to grow up prematurely and often abruptly,” continued Rivlin. “There you those of you who were born into bereavement. They know the father, mother, sister or brother who was taken away in a disaster, only from stories and pictures. There are those of you who still remember the last encounter with their loved ones, who left and never returned. And there are those of you who were 'there' – who bear the scars of the attack in their minds and their bodies. All of you have chosen to grow out of the difficulty and out of pain.”

During his speech, the President addressed Naor Ben Ezra, who spoke on behalf of children celebrating at the event. Naor was injured last October, when a terrorist his age stabbed him in the neck, in the Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood of Jerusalem.

 “We all closely and anxiously followed Naor's situation”, the President said, adding, “We prayed for Naor's well-being and recovery. Today, against all odds, Naor is with us, celebrating his Bar Mitzvah. Naor – we are so excited to celebrate with you. Your celebration - like the celebrations of all of you - symbolizes the triumph of joy over pain and the victory of life."

Rivlin referred to the current wave of terror and said, “This is a difficult time for the Israel people. In recent months we have witnessed difficult events. Young children have once again become orphans because of the murderous actions of our enemies. We pay a price to our devotion to this country, and we pay a price for our being Jews. It is a painful and hard price to pay- a price that each and every one of you knows personally, but we also have much pride, strength and energy.”

The President concluded by saying, “Bar Mitzvah boys and Bat Mitzvah girls - I see you as if you were my own grandchildren. I hope that you are standing at the gates of a new stage. May the gates that will open for you now and in the future be the gates of hope, joy and happiness. Please continue to believe, dare to dream and achieve. Receive with love the new responsibilities laid on your young shoulders and make proper and welcome use of it. I have no doubt that you will continue to be a source of pride, joy, and comfort to your own beloved and loving families. We love you very much and wish you Mazal Tov."

Naor Ben Ezra, who represented the celebrating children, said, “Until this very moment the thoughts of what I had gone through do not leave me. I cannot let go of the thought that I may have not woken up from this injury, have had my life ended through no fault of my own – all because of my attacker, a boy my age, educated on hate and resentment of the Jewish people, who hurt me just because I was a Jew.”

He continued, “The price of terror is cruel, and the injury I sustained was mortal and could have had serious consequences ranging from a brain injury  -which the doctors were concerned about - to death. Thankfully, and because of my strong will power and the fact that I didn’t give up, the support of my family and devoted care of my doctors, it was a great miracle by which I was saved. My rehabilitation from that near-fatal injury continues even now and I plan to return to school, to play with friends, and go back to my normal routine as it was before the injury. As the doctors said - the way forward is long but I'm willing to deal with everything and not give up.”

Also in attendance at the event was Minister of Social Affairs and Social Services Haim Katz and Chairman of the Association of Victims of Terrorism, Prof. Yehoshua Cohen.