The parents of 13-year-old twins Ido and Ronen planned to celebrate their Bar Mitzvah one week after Shabbat Simchat Torah, on October 7. The twins had studied with a rabbi and were prepared to read the parsha and celebrate their big day with extended family: a grandfather and two grandmothers.
With the outbreak of the war, the father, a colonel in an elite unit, went to war, leaving behind his family in a town less than 30 km from the Gaza Strip, where residents get only 15 seconds’ warnings to hit the bomb shelter.
The boys realized they wouldn’t be able to celebrate their Shabbat according to the plan, “and they were really upset,” according to their mother, mostly because they had been looking forward to seeing their grandfather and grandmothers.
Still, on their Bar Mitzva Shabbat, the twins’ father surprised them when he arrived with members of his unit for a short visit and they celebrated as best they could with pita bread and salads.
But then, last weekend, the family and the father spent a short vacation in a Tel Aviv hotel with 50 other families whose fathers were members of elite units. It’s a project called Eshet Hail (Woman of Valor) initiated by David Hagar from Los Angeles, the managing partner of Hager Pacific Properties, a $2 billion real estate investment firm, who is also on the board of the Friends of Nahal Haredi and has been engaged in enlisting Haredi young men to serve in combat IDF units.
“The father got a short furlough to join his family members for a few hours at the hotel and planned to return to base,” Hagar related. “But on Thursday evening, we heard from the family at the hotel about the canceled bar mitzvahs and decided that we would conduct a proper Torah Aliyah ceremony for them in a joyous atmosphere.”
Hagar asked Ido and Ronen’s father to try and stay a few more hours until Shabbat morning so he could attend the ceremony with his sons. On Shabbat morning, the two boys went up to the Torah, complete with being pelted with candies. After their aliyahs, Hagar read a personal blessing to the two boys and gave each of them a Bible with his name printed on it.
“It was a perfect closing of the circle,” the twins’ mother related excitedly. “We missed the grandfather and two grandmothers so much on Shabbat Bar Mitzvah, and now they participated with us in the Torah ceremony and saw their grandchildren in their wonderful moment. I have no words to thank the people who didn’t know us and just in one moment jumped in to make us happy. They filled our hearts forever.”
For four weeks now, David Hagar and other Haredi businessmen from the US have been adopting a different IDF unit every Shabbat, and every week they are hosting a different group of fighters’ wives and their families for a weekend at a hotel with a package of activities for children, “Because they simply deserve it,” Hagar says. “These people are the salt of the earth. For more than a month, the fighters have been at the front and their wives are at a different front, just as important, maintaining strong and sane homes. It’s the least we can do to thank them.”