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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Emanuel's son's Bar Mitzva? Not here

I already reported on Monday that Rahm Emanuel's son Zach was going to miss having his Bar Mitzva at the Kotel (Western Wall). The JPost all but confirmed that report on Tuesday (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
But as the bar mitzva date approaches, the White House, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry have declined to give any details whatsoever about the event. A White House representative said Emanuel’s visit to Israel was “a private trip” and diplomatic officials in Jerusalem said they also didn’t provide details when National Security Council official Dennis Ross came for his son’s wedding.

The lack of information has led to speculation in the Hebrew press, with Haaretz reporting incorrectly that Emanuel would arrive in Israel this week and Ma’ariv suggesting that he had moved the bar mitzva away from the Western Wall, either because of threats from right-wingers or because the Obama administration considered the wall in the territory of a future Palestinian capital.

Neither Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitz nor Rabbi Jay Karzen, who has conducted more than 2,000 bar mitzvas at the site, was contacted by Emanuel’s family or his office.

“We would have known about it if they inquired about it, so I don’t think they canceled a bar mitzva at the Wall or planned one,” Rabinovitz’s spokesman said.

But an official close to the Emanuel family insisted that the bar mitzva would indeed take place at the Western Wall, while another family friend hinted it was scheduled for Saturday, May 29.
Several reports have attributed the reticence to talk about the Bar Mitzva to ostensible plans to disrupt the Bar Mitzva by 'far right activists' Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben Gvir.

I was at the Kotel (Western Wall) today (Wednesday, the holiday of Shavuoth). I cannot ever remember seeing it so crowded. There were probably 50-60,000 people there at 5:00 am (we arrived at 4:20 and actually got seats(!) in the front). And there were likely dozens of Bar Mitzvas today. The kid could have been slipped in this morning and I doubt anyone would have noticed.

'Disruptions' go on at the Kotel all the time. But they generally don't last long and other than events that don't please the authorities (e.g. certain women's prayer groups) , they don't stop the events. Because the Kotel is a holy site, there are limits to what forms of protest religious Jews will tolerate there - and Marzel and Ben Gvir are both well aware of this. So if the family really wanted to hold the Bar Mitzva at the Kotel, I believe they could do so.

If Emanuel has decided not to bring his son to Israel for his Bar Mitzva, the explanation offered by ABC News is far more plausible (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
Emanuel's office made contact with religious authorities in January to discuss coordinating the event, according to an unnamed Israeli official speaking to the Maariv newspaper this week. "But since then, they have not contacted us again, and coordinating the visit of a figure in such a scale requires at least a month of advance preparation," he said.

Another possible problem with Emanuel's plan may be that the site sits beyond the historic Green Line, which used to separate Israel from Jordanian-controlled territory until the Six Day War of 1967. Since then, Israel has controlled all of the Old City of Jerusalem and its religious sites, but U.S. policy still classifies the area as "occupied territory" and officials are discouraged from spending time there other than for diplomatic duty and work assignments.
It would be a shame for the kid to miss out on a Bar Mitzva experience that every kid with any kind of Jewish education dreams about. Marzel and Ben Gvir offered to take the kid on a trip without his father.
Ben Gvir and Marzel have reportedly offered to take the teenager "on a day of fun without his father, in which we will hold a jeep tour in the various heritage sites of the Jewish people such as the Western Wall, the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Joseph's Tomb. We can only hope he will return to his father and teach him a few things about the Jewish peoples' heritage."
While I doubt that the family would send the kid with Marzel and Ben Gvir, I do hope he gets some type of Bar Mitzva experience in Israel that shows him that his father's way isn't the Jewish way.


At 10:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know Ben Gvir but a trip with Baruch Marzel is something to be appreciated.


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