It’s usually the drama of tragic stories that make the news. Here’s one where near-tragedy turns to joy, and a family gets a second chance to count their blessings.
Eli Steinberg, the child of a working-class family in Hadera, never had all that many expectations for his Bar Mitzvah celebration to begin with. Money was tight; the most he could expect from this traditional rite of passage was a small LeChaim at the local synagogue.
But then terror struck Hadera and all thoughts of his Bar Mitzvah, only several weeks away, flew out of his mind.
Eli’s mother Tamar was shopping in Hadera’s open market when a suicide bomber detonated himself near a falafel stand. Caught just several yards from the explosion, Tamar was rushed to the intensive care unit of Hadera’s Hille Yafo Hospital with multiple wounds to her abdomen.
As her family maintained vigil at her bedside, local Chabad Rabbi Yochanan Butman got wind of the story. Somewhere, somebody mentioned that Eli’s Bar Mitzvah was only several days away.
“At that point,” says Butman, “We felt we had to step in.” Together with Rabbi Menachem Kutner, director of Chabad’s Terror Relief Project, Butman decided to organize a lavish Bar Mitzvah reception in hospital’s social hall. “We couldn’t allow Eli to have lasting memories of celebrating this day without his mother there,” he says.
But as it turned out, there were even better plans in the works for Eli’s Bar Mitzvah.
As the final details for the celebration were being finalized, Tamar’s condition suddenly improved. Within a very short time, she was released from the hospital, well on her way to a full recovery.
The venue for Eli’s Bar Mitzvah was quickly transferred to Chabad of Hadera’s synagogue and social hall, and the party became a double celebration: Eli’s Bar Mitzvah, and an outpouring of gratitude for his mother’s recovery.
In a beautiful event covered by several local and national media outlets, dozens of family, friends, and even perfect strangers joined the Steinberg’s in celebrating their double good fortune. Eli read from the Torah, donned tefillin, and a lavish meal and small band added to the festivities. Hadera city mayor Mr. Chaim Avitan expressed the feelings of many of those present when he thanked Chabad for their many efforts on behalf of the city residents, particularly on behalf of families who had fallen victim to terror. “Your contribution to Hadera’s residents brings joy to so many families such as this one,” he said.