My Gush Katif Bar Mitzvah
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My Gush Katif Bar Mitzvah

My Gush Katif Bar Mitzvah

By 'downgrading' the party, we're upgrading on the mitzvah.

by

My name is A.J. (Aaron Joshua) Baumol. I am 12 years old, and have lived in Efrat, Gush Etzion for the past six years.

Four years ago the government decided to expel the Jews of Gush Katif. We had visited Neve Dekalim a few months before and I couldn’t believe that a town that looked so similar to my hometown in Efrat was going to be destroyed. There were beautiful houses, parks, schools, shopping centers and warm and friendly people who welcomed us into their homes.

My family, friends and I joined thousands of people from all over Israel to try and change their minds. We formed a human chain, held signs up on the highway, went down to Kfar Maimon and Kissufim to try and talk to the soldiers and policemen, but unfortunately it didn't help.

At first we tried to help the expellees while they were living in hotels; baking for them, bringing toys, blankets, Purim costumes and whatever else they needed. But, like I said, it's been four years now, and honestly I haven't thought about these people in a while. I figured they had all moved into new homes and moved on with their lives. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

My parents brought me down to Nitzan a couple of weeks ago and showed me the way the people of Gush Katif are living. This place did not look like Efrat. Everyone was still living in their "temporary" caravans. No beautiful houses, parks and gardens. The warm and friendly people were still there, but they looked sad.

The Plan

My bar mitzvah will be, God willing, on Parshat Noach. I have been preparing by learning Mishna with my father, going over my Toarh portion, and trying to act more mature towards my family and friends. But I knew that I needed to do more to reflect this turning point in my life, so I started looking for a chesed (kindness) project. After our visit to Nitzan I decided that my chesed project should be aimed to try and help the people there in some way.

After our visit to Nitzan I decided that to try and help these people.

At the same time we were looking into halls, caterers, and trying to come up with a "theme" (my mom loves themes). We looked at everything from Bedouin tents to Kraft Stadium. One day we were talking about how we were more focused on the party part than the chesed part, and we realized we could combine them! What if we moved the whole evening bar mitzvah to Nitzan? This way all the money we were going to spend on caterers, waiters, photographers, musicians, printers and more would go to Gush Katif refugees, and our friends and family could see the way these people are living four years after they were kicked out of their homes.

With only a few months left till my bar mitzvah, it was time to start moving. First we called Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon, founder of JobKatif, told him what we were thinking and gave him a list of all the types of suppliers we would need. Once they got back to us with names and phone numbers, we set off to Nitzan.

My dad called a friend of his, Yossi Dahari who is the head of the Youth programs for Gush Katif refugees. He said we could use the youth center as a base for our meetings. When we got there Yossi introduced us to Rachel Saperstein, head of Operation Dignity, and we talked to them both about the situation in Nitzan. 30% of the people still didn't have regular jobs, and in Nitzan the number was closer to 60%. They loved our idea about bringing the bar mitzvah to Nitzan and bringing in jobs for these people, even if it's only for one night, and hoped that this will start a new trend in bar and bat mitzvahs.

After we checked out the "banquet hall" (caravans with tables and chairs), met with the caterer and spoke with the DJ and the photographer, I spent some time with the kids there. I learned that Nitzan kids have the same hobbies, activities, and interests that we do in Efrat. I watched a soccer tournament, talked with kids at the youth center, worked out in their weight room, and went to their pizza store (it’s really good!). The kids were really nice to me, but it's not easy for them there. A lot of them suffer from PTSD, have difficulty in school, feel trapped in their small "homes," get into trouble, and are generally sad about their new lives. Their only outlet is their youth center which is a small building with old broken down games and computers. Even still, tens of kids come into the center every day for social activities and for the learning center, trying to move on and forget about their past.

The Wish List

In addition to supporting the suppliers for my party, I decided to try and raise money to upgrade the youth center with new fun stuff so that more kids will come and stay off the streets, and get help and support to move on with their lives. Yossi gave me a wish list with a budget for upgrading the center in Nitzan. They'd love to have the following:

DVD - $50
Painting learning center - $100
Books for learning - $100
Board games - $150
TV - $350
Foosball - $400
Alarm system - $400
Ping pong table - $500
Tables and chairs - $500
PlayStations - $600
Computers - $800
Pool table - $1000
Couches - $1200

All together the upgrading of this center will cost close to $7000. I am asking my family and friends in Efrat, Canada and the US, as well as anyone else who would like to bring some happiness to these kids, to help me out in this project. Let's make sure that the heroes of Gush Katif are never forgotten and that we continue to help out our brothers in need, especially during our own personal happy occasions.

To make a donation to help refurbish the youth center in Nitzan, please contact us at baumol7@yahoo.com . Tax deductible receipts will be provided through JobKatif.

Published: August 23, 2009


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Visitor Comments: 6

(6) Linda Gewis From Vancouver, January 17, 2010 5:13 AM

MAZAL TOV AJ!

AJ, This is s wonderful project. I just read it and want to help. I looked up on ebay and saw that in USA a ping pong table can be either free or almost fee, for example, balls just $2,75 etc. The idea would be that if you contact NCSY in Vancouver and Seattle, together they can buy the things you need and ship them to Israel. From experience, ZIM would be cheapest and if they knew what it is for it might be FREE. Working together in cooperation we can all get things done. When I read about the human chain, I was absolutely sure your entire family were there! I have, as many here in Vancouver, a great admiration for your parents with their dedication and values. Here we all miss you all dearly and we still remember and miss you all. You are a fine example of your parents! I feel so proud of you and was not one bit surprised to read this article. From a Baumol-Koinzon I would expect only the best! I wish you a wonderful Bar Mitzvah! With Much Love, Linda

(5) Rabbi GV, September 4, 2009 4:05 PM

I was in tears while reading this...

I can't tell you how many tears I shed and still shed over what happened 4 years ago! This article brought more tears. Aj, I want you to know that you are special because you are a person who doesn't live by instinct but rather by choice. You are even more unique because you are a Jew. But because we are Jews, if we don't live up to our potential, we can go down in levels far lower than a non-jew. You however are taking this amazing point of growth in your life to an astounding level! You used your freedom of choice so wisely. It's people like you who make us all proud to be Jews and more importantly, make a true Kiddush Shem Shamyim. The achdus that you are causing by doing this is extraordinary and achdus is probably what Klal Yisroel is lacking most in its quest for Moshiach. I applaud you and may Hashem grant you hatzlacha b'chol ma'asei yadecha and may your way of life always be b'derech Hashem. May you continue to grow in Torah and Middos Tovos and always be a source of yiddishe nachas to your parents, all Klal Yisroel and Hashem! I applaud your parents for raising you in this way and may they continue to be matzliach and have much yiddishe nachas from all their offspring and all the brachos that is written in Toras Moshe should be bestowed upon all of you! Amein! Have a great Shabbos and a Ksiva Vachasima Tova!

(4) Anonymous, September 3, 2009 2:14 AM

Yasher Koach!

Wow, AJ! Hashem and your parents must be so proud of you! Mazel Tov on your up and coming bar mitzvah! Yes, to give is to receive. It is to grow and become more mature. You are headed in a very excellent direction. Keep up the great work. Tiz k' l mitvos!

(3) Anonymous, August 30, 2009 2:56 PM

kol hakovod, aj!!

what a beautiful way to mark your bar mitzva!

(2) Menucha Levin, August 30, 2009 2:17 PM

Mazal tov, AJ!

What a wonderful story about chesed (kindness) at such a young age! AJ, your family and Klal Yisrael are very proud of you for helping others at this special time in your young life. Other kids are also taking on chesed projects to celebrate their bar or bat mitzvah such as Share Your Simcha with Sderot, enabling the disadvantaged kids there to have a celebration. For more details, see www.connectionsisrael.com

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