The Torah is portable Israel is not

west hartford, conn. | On June 30, our daughter, Amalyah, became a bat mitzvah at Robinson’s Arch, next to the 2,000-year-old Western Wall that supported the steps that led to the Holy Temple. Amalyah led the Rosh Chodesh service, read from the Torah, and delivered a d’var Torah (talk on the biblical portion) in English and in Hebrew. It was one of the most precious days of our lives.

What made the day even more wonderful? Because we were in the pulsing heart of the Jewish people; the blood and breath and spirit of the place and the moment will live with us, with our parents and family, and with our daughters forever.

Every Jewish family might wish to consider this extraordinary opportunity. Located in a quiet and protected setting a few steps to the right of the Kotel, the Davidson Archaeological Park contains Robinson’s Arch, a small archaeological remnant of the walls that supported the Temple foundation. The space has been made available by the Masorti (Conservative) movement as an egalitarian setting for b’nai mitzvah and other simchas. There is plenty of room for guests, and during the morning service, it is shady and surprisingly cool.

While we love and are active in our synagogue in Woodbridge, Conn., we felt an intense emotional and spiritual desire to have our younger daughter become a bat mitzvah in Israel. We had no idea the experience would be so uplifting.

Our 80 guests sat on chairs under arches and on wide, smooth stones as Amalyah led the weekday service in front of the same wall that our ancestors walked beside. She held the Torah to be kissed by religious and non-religious Israeli friends, most of whom had never seen a girl read Torah and who had never been to or even known of this magical site.

Our dear friend Rabbi David Ebstein, who lives with his family in Jerusalem, officiated with warmth and wisdom, reminding us that “the Torah is portable; Israel is not.”

Jews can live, learn and adapt to anywhere in the world. But Israel is our heart, and we must come to it. Amalyah brought with her an excellent Solomon Schechter-school education and her family and a lasting commitment to be part of an Israel-centered Jewish world.

How easy was it to have this kind of bat mitzvah? Incredibly simple! In these security-conscious days in Israel, we were pleased to learn that the Robinson’s Arch setting is continuously and discreetly guarded from the risks that today’s challenging times bring. While U.S. tourists are small in number these days, the Israel experience is no less powerful than ever.

Practical tips for a bat mitzvah at the arch 

• Contact Rabbi Andy Sacks, the Masorti (Conservative) rabbi in charge of setting up b’nai mitzvah at Robinson’s Arch at [email protected].

• Arrange to have a few chairs at Robinson’s Arch. There are plenty of rocks to sit on, but chairs will be appreciated by many.

• Have your service early, as cool shade gives way to sun after 11 a.m. (And who ever complained about a service ending too early?)

• Consider bringing a portable battery-operated microphone and amplifier (we purchased one online and brought it with us), as you will want everyone to be able to hear. The chant of a bat mitzvah’s Torah trope bounces beautifully amid the resonance of the Jerusalem stones.

• The best $60 ever spent: Hire a coach bus to take your guests and family to your celebratory meal after the service. The bus will wait for you at the Ashpot Gate outside the Old City and transport your grateful guests.

• We brought our own kippot; Masorti supplied prayerbooks and the Torah.

• Bring cold bottled water, paper cups and several trash bags. 

• Bring tissues. There will be tears of joy.