The boy who was raised as an Arab, and learned from his dying grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, that he was a Jew, took a major step in his return to Judaism
A family that just last year thought they were Arab, celebrated the bar mitzvah of their oldest son at the Kotel last week.
The incredible story began when Yad L'Achim received a call from the head of a Torah educational network in the south whose son was being treated at the Schneider Children’s Hospital in Petach Tikva.
“A young boy in the next bed, who appeared to be Arab, engaged us in conversation and then said, ‘ana yehud,’ [“I am a Jew” in Arabic]," the head of the network reported, "We were stunned. He went on to explain that his grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, had come to Israel all alone and settled in a mixed Jewish-Arab city.
“She had six children and many grandchildren who were all raised as Arabs. But recently, just before her death, she summoned her children and asked to be buried as a Jew.”
On hearing the story, Yad L'Achim founding chairman Rabbi Shalom Dov Lipschitz instructed his staff to meet with the family in an attempt to help them return to their roots.
Two months later, the circle began to close when five of this Holocaust survivor's grandchildren entered the covenant of Avraham Avinu. At a very moving ceremony in Upper Nazareth, attended by the local chief rabbi and Yad L'Achim's top officials, Tmam, Khalil, Yusuf, Mishil and Daoud took their rightful place among the Jewish people as Moshe, Daniel, Yosef, Ma'or and David.
Last week, the family took another important step in their return to Judaism, when their oldest son accepted the yoke of mitzvos. The high point for family and friends came when he was called to the Torah at the Kosel and recited the brachah, "Who chose us from among all the nations."
A festive bar mitzvah meal was arranged that afternoon in Bnei Brak by Yad L'Achim, which has been attending to the family's needs, including helping the children get a religious education. It was particularly gratifying to see at the joyous event brothers and sisters of the bar mitzvah boy who are enrolled in Torah institutions in Upper Nazareth.
In a moving speech, Harav Lipschitz told the story of the Talmudic sage Rami bar Rachel. "Imagine that this sage was none other than the grandson of Shmuel [one of the most prominent Talmudic sages], but his father was a non-Jew and his mother a Jew who fell into captivity and was forced to marry him. It is known that our sages chose to call him this name, 'son of Rachel,' in order that all of us will know that he is only the son of a Jewish mother, and yet he could turn into a Talmudic sage, a Torah great in Israel."
Turning to the bar mitzvah boy, Rav Lipschitz said: "It is clear that your fathers in Gan Eden, the fathers of a family that perished in the Holocaust, pleaded before the Heavenly Throne and asked for mercy for their descendants that they grow up as Jews and return to their source. Indeed, their prayers broke through the Heavenly gates and from Above the people of Yad L'Achim were sent to bring you home.
"Your future is ahead of you and you can be a Torah great in Israel. Today is eternal proof that no one is excluded from Klal Yisrael."