The Kosel has seen many tears – of sorrow, supplication, joy. But this Monday it saw tears of gratitude as a young Jewish man who was raised as a Muslim celebrated his Bar Mitzvah.
The youngster, dressed like a typical yeshivah student and surrounded by family and Yad L'Achim staffers, was called to the Torah for the first time, wearing Tefillin purchased for him by the counter-assimilation organization.
The story begins 15 years ago, when S., a Jewish teenager from Yerushalayim, met a minority member who took advantage of her personal distress and began a relationship with her that resulted in marriage and moving to his Arab village.
Only after enduring terrible violence, which nearly killed her, did S. muster the courage to call Yad L'Achim and seek help.
A social worker from Yad L'Achim's rescue division was assigned to the case. She began an intensive telephone relationship with S., taking care to call only when the Arab husband was away at work.
In a complex rescue, Yad LAchim managed to extricate S. and her son from a hostile Arab village in the Shomron and bring them to a secret safe house in Israel. Acting on the advice of Yad L'Achim's lawyers, S. filed a police complaint against her violent Arab husband, leading to his conviction and prolonged imprisonment. The court also gave her exclusive custody over her son.
With the passage of time, S. drew closer to Judaism and enrolled her son, who had been given a special mentor by Yad L'Achim, in their local Talmud Torah. Over the past year, the mentor taught the youngster the laws of putting on Tefillin and reading the Torah and prepared him to read on the big day, his Bar Mitzvah.
This week, the celebration began with the expanded family of the Bar Mitzvah boy and Yad L'Achim activists meeting at the Dung Gate, where they were met by a band of drummers, who, together with men blowing shofaros, accompanied them to the Kosel.
The festive procession and the joyous sounds and singing drew the attention of a large crowd; dozens of bystanders, including tourists, joined in the procession as it entered the Kosel Plaza, with the Bar Mitzvah boy being carried on the shoulders of a Yad L'Achim activist.
At the entrance to the Kosel Plaza, they were greeted by a representative of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, Harav Yisrael Nahon, who had helped organize the event.
That evening, a festive Bar Mitzvah meal was arranged for S.'s son at a hall in Ashkelon, with the participation of family members and friends from his Mesivta, as well as other women rescued by Yad L'Achim from Arab villages – friends of S., who had come to know her at mutual-support events organized by Yad L'Achim.
Harav Moshe Cohen, one of the organization's senior activists, delivered words of blessing and inspiration, which he concluded with the presentation of a gift to the Bar Mitzvah boy - a deluxe set of Mishnayos, courtesy of Yad L'Achim.
At the conclusion of the event, the mother and grandmother of the Bar Mitzvah boy approached Yad L'Achim activists and, in voices choked with emotion, thanked them for all the help they'd provided, but especially for arranging and funding the Bar Mitzvah, including the purchase of the tefillin and clothes for the young man.
Dancing at the entrance to the Kosel with the accompaniment of musicians
Kabbalas Ol Malchus Shamayim at the Kosel
The Bar Mitzvah boy, who was raised as a Muslim, reads from the Torah