Maariv: Did Rahm Emanuel cancel his son’s Kotel Bar Mitzvah following threats from Kahanists?
Analogies with the Richard Goldstone Bar Mitzvah fiasco would probably upset both men.
Eli Bardenstein and Amihai Attali, Maariv May 17 2010 [page 7 with front-page teaser; Hebrew original here and bottom of post]
It is not easy to hold a bar mitzvah ceremony for one’s son, certainly when one is the White House chief of staff. Rahm Emanuel, one of the key figures in the Obama administration, will come to Israel next weekend in order to watch his son Zach be called up to the Torah — but the busy chief of staff is still having difficulty deciding on the nature of the affair. Emanuel, who initially intended to hold the ceremony at the Western Wall, discovered that the fact that he is an American politician with Jewish roots and Israeli opponents is a recipe for trouble.
Emanuel already told political officials about his intention to visit Israel for his son’s bar mitzvah about a year ago. But only last January did tangible rumors begin to surface about the planned celebration at the Western Wall. “We received a call from Emanuel’s bureau at the White House, in which they asked in principle about coordinating the bar mitzvah at the Western Wall,” said yesterday an official who is involved in coordinating VIP tours at the holy site. “But since then they have not contacted us again, and coordinating the visit of a figure on such a scale requires at least a month of advance preparation.”
The reason that Emanuel has canceled the Torah reading at the Western Wall may be a letter that his bureau received a few months ago from right wing activists Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben Gvir, with a threat that they would take care to “blow up” the celebration. “We promise to accompany your son’s bar mitzvah events in Israel,” the two wrote to Emanuel, “we will make sure to receive you as you deserve to be received—not with flowers and candy, but with catcalls and disgust at what you represent.”
And perhaps the reason for the change in plan lies in the restriction that is imposed on American diplomats not to spend time over the Green Line for non-work related purposes. The Western Wall, in the view of the Americans, is “occupied territory” that Israel annexed in the Six-Day War.
The alternative celebration for Zach Emanuel, which is scheduled for next weekend, will be a small family affair. Jewish sources in the Old City of Jerusalem said that to the best of their understanding, Emanuel had apparently canceled the bar mitzvah ceremony he planned to hold at the Western Wall. “The Emanuel family is not expected to celebrate at the Western Wall in the coming two weeks; no one has coordinated such a visit with us,” they summed up.
However, another source said that Emanuel might arrive at the Western Wall without coordinating it in advance and causing a commotion there.
In any case, it is reasonable to assume that the visit will also be used for meetings with political officials in the Prime Minister’s Bureau, and perhaps also with Binyamin Netanyahu himself. Emanuel was among the initiators of the latest crisis between Israel and the US concerning construction in Jerusalem, which broke out after the visit of Vice President Joe Biden. However, Emanuel was also the one who led the American consent to “get down from their high horse,” as one of the ministers from the forum of seven put it, and the understanding that the pressure on Israel should be stopped for internal political reasons.
“Rahm Emanuel’s arrival at the Western Wall, a place that should be given to the Arabs as far as he is concerned, is an unnecessary provocation,” Marzel and Ben Gvir said last night, “and therefore he acted wisely when he decided not to hold the bar mitzvah there. However, we promise to try to locate the hall or alternative location in which the bar mitzvah will be celebrated, and stage a protest there.”
And what about young Zach, who is not involved in his father’s political business? “We propose that the child come with us for a day of fun without his father,” the right wing activists said, “in which we will hold a jeep tour in various heritage sites of the Jewish people such as the Western Wall plaza, the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Joseph’s Tomb. We can only hope that after such a trip, he will return to his father and teach him a few things about the Jewish people’s heritage.”