President Rivlin (C) with the BarMitzvah children and singer Stephane Legar. (Mark Neiman/GPO)

“You are not just young men and women. You are young men and women who overcome obstacles. I would even say that each one of you is a hero!” Rivlin told the children.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and his wife Nechama Rivlin on Monday hosted a Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebration at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem for some 60 children of families who have suffered from Palestinian terrorism.

This is the 18th year that this emotionally charged event has taken place, which represents a celebratory end to a day packed with activities in Jerusalem planned for the children by the Association of Victims of Terrorism. Popular Israeli singer Stephane Legar entertained the celebrants.

Addressing the Bar Mitzvah boys and Bat Mitzvah girls on this bittersweet day, Rivlin noted that this was the day “on which we mark the transition from childhood to adulthood…. This is the age when carefree children discover that the world is not always rosy.”

However, for these children, “sons and daughters of victims of terrorism, you have been aware of that since you were young. You were exposed to pain, loss and difficulty too young in life. You needed to take responsibility too young and too quickly. Each of you grew up in that difficulty,” Rivlin said.

Despite the difficulties and tragedies, the children “learned to grow through the pain, and with it. You are not just young men and women. You are also young men and women who overcome obstacles. I would even say that each one of you is a hero!” he added.

While Israel has come a long way since its establishment, it still faces many challenges, Rivlin said, recalling that when he celebrated his Bar Mitvah in Jerusalem, “quite a few years ago,” the city was divided and its residents suffered from Jordanian shelling and sniper fire.”

Israel has made progress towards security and prosperity, but “unfortunately, it is not yet quiet here in Israel. Just recently, the communities of the south near Gaza were fired on. The children of the south continue to live their daily lives and routines,” the Israeli president said.

“I know that some of you live in the south and have grown up in the shadow of rockets and missiles. And there are some of you who have been injured, or family members have been injured, by them. I am not giving you strength – you are the strongest people there are!” he declared

At the end of his remarks, the president expressed hope that the young people would continue to be a source of strength, pride, hope and consolation for their families.

‘Victory of the Spirit’

During the event Nehorai Zarka Ben Saadon, the son of Michael Ben Saadon who was killed in a terrorist attack in Eilat in 2007, spoke on behalf of the children.

Ben Sa’adon, who was only 27 years old at the time of his death, when Nehorai was just eight months old, was one of three people killed in a suicide bombing in a bakery in the southern city of Eilat. The Islamic Jihad and the Fatah al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack.

He referred to the upcoming Jewish holiday of Chanukah, “a symbol of the victory of the spirit.”

“We, the family of victims of terrorism, will defeat the darkness and the difficulty, with God’s help, and with the help of joy and boundless love between all people,” he pledged. “To mark our entry to adulthood and accepting the obligations of the Torah as adults, let us all decide that each one of us will do good and bring light to the world, each one of us with his or her own unique and special light.”