This past Shabbat we were invited to my cousin's son's bar mitzvah in Revava. Revava is a yishuv in the Shomron. There are about 150 families living there, including my two cousins. When My cousin heard we were making Aliyah in September, she called me to tell me that of course we would be invited and that we had to come as the whole family would be there.
Some background: This part of the family is from my father's side. As adults my father and his siblings (two brothers and two sisters) all left Argentina. Two brothers and one sister made Aliyah (43 years ago) and my father and the other sister came to America. His parents, my Bobbeh and Zeideh A"H, also made Aliyah at the time.
The family grew. My father's sister in Israel had 5 children, a son and four daughters. I did not grow up knowing my Israeli cousins. Times then were primitive in terms of communication. My father kept in touch with his parents via those blue airmail fold-up envelopes (how he looked forward to those letters written in Yiddish from my grandfather!). Phone calls were rare. We knew our cousins through pictures, and loved their exotic, Hebrew-sounding names. The first time I met them was when I went to Israel for the year after high school. I wouldn't say we got close, but I did get to know them and my Israeli aunts and uncles. Over the years we didn't really stay in touch, except when I visited Israel, or they came to America. But I did hear about them getting married, having babies. Two of my cousins live in Raanana, two live in Revava, and one cousin bought a house in Chispin, a yishuv in the Golan. I knew that once I made Aliyah I would forge a relationship with all these people. I would get to know them and their families. So I was thrilled to be able to go to Revava and attend this bar mitzvah, my first family simcha in Israel.
My cousins have all married and B"AH my aunt and uncle have 19 grandchildren. My cousin who hosted the bar mitzvah just had a baby girl two months ago. We arrived in Revava at 2 P.M. Erev Shabbat. My cousin had planned a welcome party for all her guests which was just family, both her side and her husband's side. She has a beautiful front yard where the reception was held. A keyboard player and good food contributed to the light atmosphere. It was a beautiful, breezy day and from the house we had a view of the surrounding mountains and the neighboring yishuvim and Arab villages. After a little socializing, Shlomi, the bar-mitzvah's boys father asked everyone to gather round so he could speak. Keep in mind,he is my cousin by marriage, and I had never met him before. The first thing he said, (in Hebrew, of course), was, "Before I start, I would like to mention that we have very special guests. Our cousins, Isaac and Baila and their three daughters just made Aliyah from the states. We are so happy they are here with us..." Immediately the musician spontaneously started playing ושבו בנים לגבולם and everyone started singing and clapping. There was genuine joy in their faces. The girls were so embarrassed, and I felt so....validated.
There were moments like that throughout Shabbat. We were embraced and enveloped by my cousins. I finally got to know their spouses, and their children. (Yes, I know all 19 names and which kid belongs to which cousin). The bar mitzvah itself was beautiful. Good meals, Divrei Torah, Zemirot and lots of laughter. Shlomi is Temani, which added another flavor to the event. Tali and Orli made friends with their second cousins. Liat told me she loved the idea of living on a Yishuv like this. This place is very different from a place like Chashmonaim. It's isolated, and very quiet. The people who live there, for the most part live there for ideological reasons, some might even say radical. Several of the men carried M-16 rifles with them throughout Shabbat. Liat asked me about the implications of carrying weapons on Shabbat, and we talked about that for a while.
I'm not a political person, so I'm not going to discuss the politics of living in a place like this. What I will say, is that when I see a Jew carrying a weapon in our land, I feel pride. I think about the Holocaust that occurred only sixty years ago, and the paralysis that we felt in the face of so many humiliations. We learned our bitter lesson back then. No nation is going to protect us; we must protect ourselves.
As Shabbat came to a close, we sat in the moadon (hall, lounge) of the Yishuv, eating Seudat Shlishit and watching the sun set behind the mountains. The air in the Shomron has a chill to it that we do not yet feel in Modiin. Winter is coming...and I am looking forward to seeing my family again very soon...
The Stuff that Lasts
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