It’s the celebration that turns Jewish boys into men, and girls into women. A bar or bat mitzvah is held when a Jewish child turns 12 or 13, and it usually means a big party with friends, family and, hopefully, gifts.
But for Israel Kristal from Maleniec, near Żarnów, Poland, it wasn’t so easy to throw a big fest when he turned 13. At the time, 1916, the First World War was raging around him.
“When my father was 13 years old, it was the First World War. His father was in the Russian army, his mother had died three years before. No one was celebrating in this moment,” Kristal’s daughter Schulamit Kristal Kuperstoch told DPA.
Later as an adult, Kristal’s homeland was again thrown into another world war, invaded by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany. And in 1944, Kristal, as a Jewish man, was deported to the death camp Auschwitz.
The Holocaust took the lives of his first wife and their two children, while Kristal survived. When the Allied forces liberated Auschwitz, Kristal weighed just 37 kilos (81.6 pounds), according to the Guinness World Records.
But as he turns 113 years old on Thursday, the world’s oldest man will prepare to celebrate his own bar mitzvah at last.
“We’re going to celebrate with many family members – more or less 100,” his daughter said.
“We will bless him, we will dance with him, we’ll be happy with him… [but] you can’t feel like you’re 13 when you’re 113.”
When Kristal was declared the world's oldest living man by the Guinness World Records in March, he had this to say: “I don’t know the secret for long life. I believe that everything is determined from above and we shall never know the reasons why.
“There have been smarter, stronger and better looking men then me who are no longer alive. All that is left for us to do is to keep on working as hard as we can and rebuild what is lost.”