Jerusalem Peace Forest bat mitzva bridges generations

Standing at the edge of the KKL-JNF Freeman Amphitheatre in the and gazing towards the Temple Mount on Thursday, August 23, 2018, young Sydney Freeman Wayne turned to her parents and said: “There is no better place in the world to have a bat mitzva.” Sydney arrived at the site along with close family members, their rabbi and a Torah scroll to celebrate her second bat mitzva in Israel, following the first one that they held several weeks earlier in Toronto, Canada.

“The first bat mitzva was nice because so many relatives and all my friends took part,” she explained, “but this place is so much more meaningful from a spiritual point of view. My brother Zachary celebrated his second bar mitzva two years ago at the Kotel (the Western Wall), however I always knew that I wanted to celebrate here in the forest.”

The KKL-JNF Freeman Amphitheatre in the Jerusalem Peace Forest, which stands adjacent to the Sherover Promenade in southern Jerusalem, was dedicated in 1999 by Sydney’s late grandfather Zoltan “Zolie” Freeman of blessed memory, who was a staunch supporter of Jewish life in Canada and Israel.

Against the panorama, Rabbi Aaron Flanzraich of the Beth Sholom Synagogue in Toronto, and the other males present put on tefillin for the start of the festive Shacharit morning prayers. The climax of the service was when the Rabbi called Sydney to the Torah to recite the blessings for the portion of the week, Ki Tetze. Addressing Sydney, Rabbi Flanzraich said that he agreed that the place she had chosen to hold her Israel bat mitzva was special in many ways. “This location in Israel, close to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, in the KKL-JNF Peace Forest, signifies many of the ideas and values that you received from your parents and grandparents. Today we read from the Torah. The word Torah means ‘teaching’, but also includes the Hebrew words for ‘parent’ and ‘mountain’. From that, we understand that with the right ideas we can reach great heights.”

The Torah reading ended with a hearty cheer from the other congregants and a beaming smile from the bat mitzva girl.

and see photos of the bat mitzva in Peace Forest .