Bar Mitzveh


The Bar Mitzveh is a solemn and joyful event in the life of every Jewish boy when he "comes of age" - usually around 12 - when he is accounted a man and can take his place in the quorum for worship, the minyan. To celebrate this special event at the Western Wall, the holiest place in Judaism, makes the occasion even more special and Yemeni Jews hire drummers, who stand around waiting for such a commission, to accompany their walk to the wall with drumming and blowing of the sacred shofar or ram's horn. (Male relatives, who haven't a clue how the thing works - where's the battery? - pose silently with the horns for the family cameras.

After watching two of these family groups we move to the Wall itself, where solemn conclaves of men don phylacteries - little wooden boxes worn on right hand and forehead - and drape their prayer shawls around their shoulders.

Women, of course, are not allowed in with the men, so they congregate in the women's enclosure and hang over the dividing wall, from where they throw handfuls of coins and sweets and ululate joyfully. No one seems to mind the noise and disturbance - but pity help the woman who dares the pray aloud: one who tried recently was pelted with abuse, then chairs, and finally the black-coated hypocrites swarmed across the fence and tried to kill her. She was saved in the nick of time by armed police.

She should have stuck with ululating.