Or Etzion

Training Israel's Future: Chief of Police nominee Ron Alsheich

Ron Alsheich

Minister of Public Security, Gilad Erdan announced last month his nomination of Ron Alsheich to be Israel's 18th Chief of Police . Born in 1963 in Jerusalem to parents of Yemenite Jewry, Alsheich graduated high school from YBA Netiv Meir, where Erdan also studied.

Ron was conscripted to the IDF in 1981 and joined the Paratroopers Brigade. He went on the serve as a commander of the brigade's Engineer Company and as deputy-commander of the 50th battalion of the Nahal Brigade.

Alsheich left the army in 1988 with the rank of Major, and joined the Shabak, Israel's equivalent to the FBI, where he rose through the ranks until being appointed deputy director in September 2014. He was expected to be tapped to be the next head of the Shabak before being picked by Erdan to lead the Israel Police.

Alsheich's nomination is expected to sail through the approval process, as praise for his talent and appropriateness for the position pours in from sources all across Israeli society. Israel's last Chief of Police, Yohanan Danino, a graduate of YBA Or Etzion, retired from the position three months ago.

The chairman of the Yeshivot Bnei Akiva educational network, Rabbi Haim Drukman, called Alsheich to congratulate him and wish him well. "It is a very important and demanding position," said Rabbi Drukman; "Your appointment is a source of pride for the entire religious Zionist sector in general, and for YBA in particular, because it demonstrates our commitment to educating toward the values of Torat Eretz Yisrael, which incorporates dedication to mitzvot between man and G-d, man and his fellow man, and man and his country."

Read more about Ron Alsheich and how his appointment reflects the growing trend of religious Zionist leadership in all sectors of Israeli society in the following links:

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4705001,00.html

http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/New-top-cop-reflects-rise-of-religious-Zionism-in-Israeli-society-419216

http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Analysis-Dont-judge-the-new-police-commissioner-by-his-cover-419354

Rabbi Drukman wins award; comes out against alternative conversion courts

YBA Chairman, Rabbi Haim Drukman
Rabbi Haim Drukman, Rosh Yeshiva of YBA Yeshivat Hesder Or Etzion and Chairman of the YBA Educational Network in Israel, was awarded the coveted Prize for Torah Literature by the Torah and Wisdom College, citing the six books already published, as well as the many books presently being worked on for future publication. Last year’s prize was awarded to Rabbi Yehoshua Weizmann, the Rosh Yeshiva of YBA Yeshivat Hesder Maalot Yaakov.

Rabbi Drukman headed the Conversion Authority within the Prime Minister's office for many years, and is critical of the way conversion is being conducted today by the Haredi-dominated Chief Rabbinate. Neverthe less, Rabbi Drukman is opposed to the recent move by other religious Zionist rabbis to establish alternative conversion courts outside the Israel Chief Rabbinate.

Read  more about Rabbi Drukman's position on the current controversy shaking the religious Zionist community in Israel:

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/199289#.VdNEBpvotLM

http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/is-it-mutiny-independent-rabbinic-court-competing-with-chief-rabbinate-on-conversions/2015/08/11/




Rabbi Drukman speaks out against religious extremism and violence

YBA Educational Network Chairman, Rabbi Haim Drikman
Many uninformed or misinformed American Jews think that Bnei Akiva schools teach their students to be extremists. Nothing can be farther from the truth.

On Friday, in response to two terrible incidents that took place the day before, Rabbi Haim Drukman, the Chairman of the YBA Educational Network in Israel spoke out yet again against all forms of extremism and violence, whether against Arabs or Gay Jews.


YBA is all about teaching moderation, which is according to Rambam, 'the golden path.'
READ MORE

Soldier with cerebral palsy to be honored for excellence


"This honor belongs above all to my friends in the army and to my commanders, who accept me as an equal. They don't make any assumptions, they simply listen and help me," says Cpl. Ori Cohen, 20, who had always dreamed of serving in the IDF.

By Shlomi Diaz and Yori Yalon, Israel Hayom, April 20, 2015

Cpl. Ori Cohen with his parents
Cpl. Ori Cohen, 20, from Rehovot, will be among the 120 Israeli soldiers to be honored for excellence at the annual Independence Day ceremony at the President's Residence on Thursday. Cohen was born with cerebral palsy and fought hard to be accepted as a volunteer in the Israel Defense Forces.

For Cohen, the youngest son of Sigal and Yitzhak Cohen and brother to Mor, 27, and Shir, 24, reaching this moment was a struggle.

"This honor belongs above all to my friends in the army and to my commanders, who accept me as an equal," he said, "They don't make any assumptions, they simply listen and help me. I am very excited, of course. I was surprised to be receiving this honor, but it seems that my work was recognized by my superiors and they appreciate me, so I am happy."

Cohen serves as a network administrator at the computer support center in the GOC's C41 Corps. His job is to solve network problems. "I did not have prior knowledge, but I learned on the job," he said.

His parents take him to and from his base, where he gets around using a walker or a wheelchair.
"My parents' and my family's devotion pushed me forward, and this is the right opportunity to thank them," Cohen said.

"Another thing that helped me make the decision to serve and to contribute were my studies at the yeshiva of Rabbi Haim Drukman [the head of the YBA educational network and Bnei Akiva youth movement]. I am proud to be fulfilling not only my civic duty, but also my religious and national duties, as that is an important value in the Torah."

According to Cohen, his "minor disability" does not stop him from excelling at his work in the army. "I am not different, despite the wheelchair," he said. "I am a regular person in every way, and even in the moments when I am alone and I think about it, I do not feel different. I don't think about the difficulties for a even a minute.

"I came to the base every day, even during Operation Protective Edge, when there were sirens and rockets. I am very happy with my job, and lately, I have been thinking quite a bit about continuing to serve in the army [in the long term]. "It was important to me to join the army, since that is a value I was raised with. Everyone in my family served, and I knew that I too would be drafted, despite the situation."

"At both my high school yeshiva [YBA Hadarom, Rechovot] and army preparatory yeshiva [YBA Mechinat Kiryat Malachi], I was taught to love our country, and part of that means contributing and serving in the IDF. I taught the same thing to my groups during the two years that I was a Bnei Akiva youth leader. It wasn't easy, but I made my dream come true. I never had any doubt that I would be in the army."

Passover interview with Rabbi Drukman - Part 1 of 3: The 'Formerly Religious' Phenomenon

"Do everything you can to ensure the future of the people and the country."

Rabbi Haim Drukman established a generation and paved the way for the religious Zionist movement in many areas. Apart from the love of Torah and love of Israel, he has a great message here for today's youth

By Ariel Horowitz – Arutz Sheva, Small World Magazine, 12 Nissan 5775, 01/04/15 (Translation)

Rabbi Drukman at memorial service
for Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, zt"l
This year, as every year, Rabbi Haim Drukman visited the grave of his mentor, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Hacohen Kook, on the Mount of Olives on his yortzeit (the Fast of Esther). Thirty years have passed since that rainy day that Rabbi Zvi Yehuda was buried. "I think that his character is sorely missed today," said Rabbi Drukman with sad eyes, "In many situations, I feel that he is missing." How symbolic that three years ago, on his way back home from the Mount of Olives, the rabbi received notification of winning the Israel Prize.

"The real prize is the privilege to contribute to the nation, the state, the Israeli public," says Rabbi Drukman, "When there is official recognition of this enterprise, it certainly adds value."  Rabbi Drukman’s modest words actually allude to several enterprises: his establishment of Bnei Akiva yeshivas in Israel, his many years of work with the Association of Hesder Yeshivot and his position as head of the Israel government’s Conversion Authority. This last role put him in a severe – some would say explosive – conflict with the ultra-Orthodox Haredi world.

In his book-lined study at his home in Merkaz Shapira, a small religious community in the south, just a short walking distance from Yeshivat Bnei Akiva Or Etzion that he founded, Rabbi Drukman sits, learning and teaching, advising students and rabbis, in person and on the phone; Looking down from above is a painting of Rabbi Kook, whose name he mentions during our conversation over and over again. Just before Passover we came to his home to talk to him, to try to understand some of his teachings, and to hear his thoughts on religious Zionism, today's youth and Israeli society.

‘Taking off the hat’


When I ask Rabbi Drukman to recall the religious world that he experienced in his youth, he was not tempted to glorify the past and put down the present. As usual, he is full of gratitude for our situation today. "The situation in the days of my boyhood was far different from the case today. Like [the distance between] heaven and earth. I was once interviewed on a Channel One TV program, and the interviewer said, 'Israel is full of religious education, but it is also full of datlashim - formerly religious people!' I replied: 'Let your ears hear what your mouth is saying: There are also formerly religious people! Decades ago the majority were formerly religious people! You have to understand that just a few decades ago everyone was traveling in just one direction: the off-ramp leaving the path Torah and the Mitzvot.

Boys and girls finished the eighth grade in a religious school, and that was the end of all their connection to Judaism. They were drawn to the big ideas of that era: building the Land, pioneering, Socialism; and it seemed to them that these ideas had nothing to do with the Torah. We would say, 'so-and so has taken off his hat' – because in those days the boys would go with hats, berets, in public. Who ever dreamed that religious youth would go on the street wearing a kipa? How can anyone not see what a revolution took place? Today there is a world of tremendous religious Zionist Torah that is unprecedented! We have an entire population; we have institutions and youth movements. Look at how much value there is in [religious Zionist] education; how effective it is and how much it influences."   

Are ‘formerly religious’ people today leaving religion for the same reasons as before?

"I don’t think so. Today, it is usually the religiously weak youth, those without a strong religious background; boys who went with a kipa but without any commitment to religious Zionist values. If there are internal values, you can stand up to all kinds of crises and difficulties, exposure to other influences and peer pressure. But if there are no values, a religious upbringing will not last. Some people are outraged when formerly religious people are referred to as 'captured babies’ [who never learned Torah]. They claim that that the formerly religious are people with great values who turned to another path after thoroughly investigating [religion]. But no one can convince me this is the reality. [In most cases] it is a weak youth who comes into contact with a particular social group, and finds it difficult to resist the peer pressure; so he allows himself to pulled along in order to fit in. What can you do? It is a sign of lack of character. It is important that we fill our students with substance and develop their character, [so they will have the backbone] to stand on their own."

Do you think that secularization is associated only through one’s encounter with another world, or can is be due to problems in the religious world itself?

"You cannot generalize. In most cases, it is about a weak character who could not cope with the reality around him, but there are also youths who were disappointed with the religious world, so they left. Rabbi Kook, of blessed memory, wrote long ago that people, by mistake, relate to Judaism through those who they see practicing it [rather than for what it really is]. Sometimes someone may encounter a rabbi that disappoints him, and because of it he projects that disappointment onto the values the rabbi seems to represent. One needs to make a distinction between a specific rabbi and whole of the religious world. It is the identification of Judaism with a specific individual that often creates the motivation to become secular."

Go to Part 2: Rabbis and Politics

Go to AFYBA Website

Rabbi Haim Drukman honored by Bar Ilan University

From left: Prof. Shmuel Vargon, Rabbi Haim Drukman
and Rabbi Noam Perl (photo: Yoni Hamenachem)
Rabbi Haim Drukman, Chairman of the YBA Educational Network in Israel and Rosh Yeshiva of the YBA Or Etzion Hesder Yeshiva was one of five distinguished Israelis to be awarded the Brookdale Prize for Exceptional Contribution to Israeli Society by Bar Ilan University. He was awarded the prize “for his many years of activity for the advancement of Torah education, and for his multi-faceted contributions to Israeli Society.” 

Rabbi Drukman is an Israel Prize Laureate (2012) for Lifetime Achievement. He is one of the most senior and well-respected leaders of the religious Zionist population in Israel. He founded and still heads a number of important institutions, including YBA Or Etzion yeshiva high school, Or Etzion IDF military cadet high school, Or Etzion Hesder Yeshiva, Mechinat Or MeOfir for Ethiopian Olim, AMI Conversion Institute, and Mechina of the Northern Negev. In addition, as the former head of the Prime Minister's Office Conversion Authority, he has personally signed off on over 50,000 conversions in Israel, and as chairman of the YBA Educational Network in Israel, he is the spiritual leader of our 24,000 students. 

The award was presented by Prof. Shmuel Vargon, of the Zalman Shamir Bible Dept. of BIU, and Rabbi Noam Perl, the Secretary General of the Bnei Akiva Worldwide Youth Movement, Rabbi Perl was Rabbi Drukman's student at YBA Or Etzion, and went on to found and head the YBA Sussya Yeshiva High School for Environmental Studies.





40% intermarriage rate in France means that 10% of French Olim need conversion services

The growing number of anti-Semitic terror attacks in France has inspired thousands of French Jews to pack up and "make Aliyah." Israel welcomed 7,000 French Olim in 2014 and the country is expecting 10,000 to 15,000 more in 2015.

However, the massive wave of Aliyah from France raises once again the conversion dilemma to the forefront of public discourse in Israel.

According to Prof. Sergio DePergola, an expert in Jewish demography worldwide, the intermarriage rate among French Jews has been around 40% for the past 20-30 years. As a result, The Jewish Agency reports, about 10% of new immigrants from France in 2014 were not Jews according to Jewish law (Halacha).

Rabbi Haim Drukman receiving Israel Prize
from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Rabbi Haim Drukman, the chairman of YBA in Israel and Rosh Yeshiva of YBA Or Etzion, recognized long ago the need to create a user-friendly conversion program for such new immigrants. Back in the early 1990s Rabbi Drukman took the lead and founded the "Ami" (My People) conversion program at his yeshiva  in order to welcome thousands of new immigrants from the former Soviet Union who wished to "join the fold" in a fully Halachic conversion.

Over the years Rabbi Drukman has signed the conversion papers of over 50,000 new immigrants. He was awarded the Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement in 2012, which included recognition for his service to Israel as the head of the national conversion authority for the Prime Minister's office.

YBA Or Etzion's Ami conversion program has already sponsored conversion classes for French olim for the past three years, and is in position to take the lead once again for the national effort on behalf of this new wave of Aliyah from France. Just another way that YBA is Training Israel's Future!

Rabbi Haim Drukman on Israel's new Conversion Law: "This is a great day."

Rabbi Haim Drukman
Rabbi Haim Drukman, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Hesder Or Etzion and Chairman of Yeshivot Bnei Akiva, was the first to call to congratulate MK Elazar Stern following the passage of a new law in the Knesset that will allowing chief rabbis of cities in Israel to establish their own rabbinical courts for conversion to Judaism.

MK Stern, a graduate of YBA Netiv Meir and former IDF general, represents the "Hatunua" party in the Knesset and was the driving force behind the bill, which is expected to speed up the conversion process for thousands immigrants from the FSU and their children, who are living Jewish lives as full Israeli citizens, but are not considered Jewish according to Jewish law (Halacha).

In his phone conversation congratulating MK Stern, Rabbi Drukman said, "This is a great day for Israel and the Jewish People."

MK Elazar Stern
MK Stern commented that, "most importantly, we have returned religious Zionist rabbis to being the gatekeepers of our people - rabbis that are connected to the complexities of Israeli society and the Jewish nation, and not distanced from people; rabbis who belief that the Jewish identity of the State of Israel is not something that we can take for granted, but is a challenge that we must work at day-by-day to develop and preserve."

Alumni Profile: Col.Ofer Winter, IDF Givati Brigade Commander

IDF Col. Ofer Winter
The commander of the IDF Givati Brigade, Col. Ofer Winter, inadvertently created a tempest in the Israeli press when he wrote a letter to his infantry soldiers on the eve of their entering combat in the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge.

Col, Winter, is a graduate of the IDF military academy high school attached to YBA Or Etzion at Merkaz Shapira. He quoted traditional Jewish prayers in his letter meant to strengthen the spirit of his soldiers' before going into battle.

However, the religious Zionist tone of his words sparked anger among several secular journalists reporting on the war, who questioned the legitimacy of portraying the military operation as a religious war.

“Anyone who attacked me for the letter apparently has only seen weapons in pictures, was never in combat, and doesn't know what fighting spirit is,” he said and revealed that before going into action his custom was to recite the blessing with which the ancient Israelite priests would bless the army before it went to war.
“When a person is in a life-threatening situation he connects with his deepest internal truths, and when that happens, even the biggest atheist meets God,” he said, claiming that soldiers see so many miracles that “it is hard not to believe [in God]."
Read the Jerusalem Post article about Col Ofer Winter




Chief of Police visits YBA Or Etzion

Chief of Israel Police,
Yochanan Danino

Col. Eylon Hyman, Danino
and Rosh Yeshiva Micha Klatzhandler
Last week, YBA Or Etzion, in the northern Negev village of Merkaz Shapira, hosted Israeli Chief of Police Yochanan Danino. Danino, who graduated from YBA Or Etzion over 30 years ago, toured the yeshiva campus with today's Rosh Yeshiva Micha Klatzhandler and the Or Etzion Military Academy with the Academy's IDF commander, Col. Eylon Hyman.

Danino with Rabbi Drukman
Following the tour of the school's facilities, Police Chief Danino met with his former Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Haim Drukman, who today serves as Rosh Yeshiva to the Or Etzion Hesder Yeshiva and Rabbinical College (Kollel), and Chairman of Merkaz YBA.

In his lecture to the students of the yeshiva, Danino said that, "the four years that I spent at Or Etzion shaped my life and continue to influence me until today." He concluded by saying that he would like to see more graduates of the YBA high school yeshivot going for careers in the Israel Police Department.