|Arielle, David, Shari, and Zeke celebrated the twins’ becoming bar and bat mitzvah; coincidentally, they also celebrated the expansion of Mr. Rosenblatt’s business. Rosenblatt family|
Lots of kids go to Israel to celebrate becoming bar or bat mitzvah.
Not a lot of them get to dedicate a solar energy field as part of the festivities. That was a privilege quite possibly unique to Arielle and Zeke Rosenblatt of Tenafly.
Their father, David, and his partners launched Arava Power Company in 2007. It originally was based in a former turkey coop at Kibbutz Ketura in the Negev desert. Happily, the inauguration of the next six fields in the company’s expansive solar-energy project coincided with the twins’ Jewish coming of age.
“I go to Israel a lot for this business and am away from my kids, but I promised we’d go together for openings so they could see the results of these trips,” Mr. Rosenblatt said. “The fact that I was able to fulfill my promise for their bnei mitzvah at the same time these six fields were ready to open, really makes me feel blessed. You only get so many of these great moments in life, and to have two of them together in the same week is a blessing.”
Guests at the shared simcha hailed from eight states and five countries, and the foreign travelers were joined by more than 100 Israeli families and friends. “Zeke spoke impromptu to the political and industry officials there at the very end, and he said the moment is not about him and his sister; it’s about all of them and what they accomplished,” Mr. Rosenblatt said. “He understood this was about Israel scaling up its renewable energy program.”
This was no small accomplishment. Arava Power had to work with 24 government agencies to change land policy, because until then kibbutzim had not been permitted to lease their land to third parties.
“Farming is not always profitable, and to be able to use that land for other purposes is a critical economic development activity, especially in periphery areas that need it so much,” Mr. Rosenblatt said. “It’s a win-win on so many levels.”
The new six solar fields directly affect the lives of more than 2,000 Negev kibbutz members by creating 325 jobs and 36 megawatts of electricity for their region. The fields will offset the polluting effects of 898,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide – the equivalent of planting 1.3 million trees.
The first field, opened four years ago, generates 4.95 megawatts, enough electricity for 7,000 to 8,000 homes in Israel. A third phase now is planned.
“The takeaway that we talk about with our kids is that doing something of real value takes effort and doesn’t happen quickly,” said Mr. Rosenblatt, an active leader in the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly, Temple Emanu-El in Closter, Young Judaea, and the American Technion Society.
He gives the credit for the success of the April visit to his wife, Shari Gersten. The itinerary for Arielle and Zeke, now finishing seventh grade at Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County, included a stop at Masada, the desert fortress where a band of Jewish zealots fought off Roman invaders after the destruction of the Second Temple, only to commit suicide when they saw they could not win.
“Shari had a vision for the last two or three years to do this trip,” Mr. Rosenblatt said. “It was the kids’ fifth trip to Israel. We didn’t want them to go to Masada until now, when they could appreciate the history and the drama, and we wanted something dramatic that shows the perseverance of the Jewish people under attack.”
The twins also went to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem to distribute stuffed animals they had collected from classmates. “That brought a smile to people’s faces,” their father reported.
A service at the Beit Shmuel-Shimshon Center, overlooking Jerusalem’s Old City, used a prayer book compiled by the Rosenblatts. After spending Passover with Israeli relatives, the family finished up with a camping trip in the south.
“The whole time I was in Israel, there was never a dull moment,” Zeke said. “There were many people who came just for my sister and me and probably thought this trip was going to be just another vacation. But they were wrong because they quickly realized that Israel is filled with fun and excitement every day, and that it is a magical place for anyone who goes there.”
Arielle said that her most lasting memory from the trip is “having the Old City of Jerusalem behind me while I read the Torah in front of all my friends and family.
“I wanted to be bat mitzvah in Israel – to be surrounded by all of this history from previous generations, and to celebrate the coming of another generation, because Israel is not just about the time of the Bible.
“Interesting things are still happening in Israel, like the solar fields being opened.”