This past Sunday, on Lag B’omer, the residents of ‘Europe’s Diamond Capital’ – Antwerp, Belgium, were witness to a grand display of yiddishkeit in the open, a real Kiddush Hashem.
Down the main street of Antwerp, Belgium, marched proudly around a thousand parents and children of the local schools and chadorim. The parade was organized in honor of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, and was organized by Chabad Lubavitch of Antwerp, under the leadership of the Head Shliach Harav Shabatai Slaviticki.
For the first time in the history of the city, the Antwerp police and the local Shmirah teamed up together, to ensure the safety for the hundreds of children, together with their parents and the many other participants.
The parade started outside the Lubavitch Yeshivah, where they were treated to a fire juggling show starring Mendel Rosenblum, a Bochur in the Tomchei Temimim yeshivah of Antwerp. A few of the 12 pesukim were recited out loud, while the rest were recited later on in the program. The spectators were also treated to a special show from the marching band, who then went on to lead the parade, lead by the flags of Tzivos Hashem. Leading the whole procession war a magnificent float, replete with giant Tefillin in honor of fifty years since the Rebbe initiated the Mivtza Tefillin, a huge Mezuzah, a massive Tzeddakah Pushkah, and a giant Chitas with a shelf full of Sefarim, celebrating thirty years since Didan Notzach in 1987, (which also when the Rebbe encouraged the building of Batei Chabad, including making your own house into a Beis Chabad).
The float was created by the Bochurim of the Yeshivah, who in general helped arrange the whole event.
As the crowd paraded down the streets, windows opened up on all sides as Jews, and l’havdil non-Jews alike stared in amazement, and even took videos, as the long procession marched with loud music, as far as the eye could see.
After about a half hour of marching, the children and parents arrived at the hall of Agudas Yisroel, for the second half of the program, to which the children excitedly anticipated.
The MC for the program was shliach Rabbi Yossi Slaviticki, who expertly ran the proceeding while entertaining the crowd. Between the recitations of the 12 pesukim the children sang along to live music, enjoyed raffles on sets of sefarim, and were happily surprised by what was no doubt the climax of the program – a play telling the story of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.
The highly professional play was staged and directed by the students and shluchim of the lubavitcher yeshivah. The children as well as the adults were mesmerized by the vivid account played out by the actors, who were very professional. Making it more real, the play was accompanied by live music in the background, as well as beautiful props.
Throughout the play, many teachings explained by the Rebbe were given over to the audience. The play ended with the actors coming together on stage to join in singing and dancing.
All in all, the play was a massive hit, and it will probably be a long time till the kids will see something like it again.