On July 5th, 2007, our plane touched down in Ben-Gurion Airport near the city of Tel Aviv. My family and I traveled to Israel for one of the biggest events of my childhood, my Bar Mitzvah. A Bar Mitzvah is a Jewish coming of age ceremony that serves as a transition between childhood and adulthood. This significant ritual normally happens at age 13 for boys. On the day of a child's Bar Mitzvah, he sings from a chapter in the Torah (Old Testament) that corresponds to his Hebrew birth date.
After landing in Israel, my family and I stayed in an apartment we rented in the city of Raanana, where I used the few extra days I had to practice my Parsha. We took this time to roam the streets of this quaint Israeli town, where a solo violin was playing and food from street vendors selling the best pita bread known to man filled the senses. Although not known as a tourist attraction, this beautiful area was the perfect backdrop to put the final touches on my studying. On July 10th, I had my Bar Mitzvah. It was held in a beautiful synagogue in Herzliya called Beth Juliana. All my cousins and family were there to support me as I read through my Parsha. Although I was extremely nervous, I was able to complete my Torah portion entirely in Hebrew and in the end was very proud of what I had accomplished. Unlike most Bar Mitzvah's, mine was especially unique in the sense that I did it in Israel, completely in Hebrew while amongst native speakers to whom I felt a closer connection since my days in Raanana.
After my Bar Mitzvah, my family took me on a bus tour throughout historic locations in the Old City of Jerusalem. We visited places like the Tower of King David, the Western (or Wailing) Wall, as well as other archaeological sites that represented important events throughout history. The weather was particularly hot, and was as if a conflagration was about to erupt. Not minding the weather, we were also able to visit a place in the city of Latrun called Mini-Israel. This tourist attraction shows the most important architectural, historic, archeological, religious and social sites as well as buildings of importance to all religions and cultures that are part of this diverse country, but on a smaller scale.
This perfect day was capped off with a feast in the Israeli Arab Village of Abu-Ghosh. Known as a favorite eating spot, we were treated to local delicacies such as hummus, stuffed grape leaves, baba ganoush, falafel, and an assortment of meats served family style with everyone picking and choosing exactly what they want. As we enjoyed each other’s company, the sun began to slowly set behind the hills around Jerusalem.
I often think back to the memories of that particular trip. Although we had previously and since been to Israel many times, this trip was indeed the most memorable of them all, and it made me truly proud of the heritage and culture that my family and I are a part of.
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