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A Special Moment

by Louise Lawrence-Israëls

Sidney and I left for Israel to celebrate the bar and bat mitzvah of two of our grandchildren, Benjamin and Rebekah: a joyous occasion and hopefully a learning experience. Our daughter Naomi did not finalize the ceremony of coming of age for her children until about eight months before. Neither of the children have any Jewish education, and they do not belong to a synagogue. Frankly, I think she made the arrangements to please her parents and especially me, with my background.

Our other daughters, Judith and Jordana, also went.

I would love it if the children could love Israel like Sidney and I do, and I hope they will understand how Israel came to exist and why it has the right to exist. We took the family to Yad Vashem, the memorial to the Holocaust in Jerusalem.

We arrived in Israel in pouring rain. That is a very lucky sign. Israel has a severe water shortage. Many people pray for rain in the fall. Our driver “flew” to Jerusalem with us; I do not think his wheels touched the road, but we arrived safely. The moment we stepped into the hotel, Sidney and I looked at each other and we whispered: home.

We settled in, and about an hour later the eight of us met at the lobby for tea and coffee. Sidney took the family to see the two paintings that were hanging in the lobby of the hotel, made by my ancestor Jozef Israels. My father was named for him.

We talked, we laughed, and we made plans for the next two days

We would be meeting at Yad Vashem at two o’clock in the afternoon.

A guide who specialized in leading tours for children met our family at the visitor center. We started with the Children’s Memorial and then we spent almost two hours at the museum. It was so good to watch the children; they gave the guide their full attention. It was almost dark when we reached the end of the exhibit. Lights were being lit at the houses and buildings of the Mount of Remembrance. That view always moves us, but it was even better with the lights.

Our last stop at Yad Vashem was the little synagogue.

I had done research at home and found the names of two of my relatives, a boy and a girl, who had been murdered in the Holocaust. They had only reached the ages of four and nine. I never knew them.

Two tired children sat in the synagogue and listened to me, their grandmother. I explained that it was not just Ben and Bekah during their bar and bat mitzvah, Johan and Astrid Israels would be standing with them.

I gave Ben and Bekah the scrolls of remembrance and told them that Israel was built on the ashes of these relatives and six million others who were murdered. I think about this all the time and hope they will remember that very special moment.

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