Protective Edge

YBA Alumni Profiles: Lt. Shaked Ben-Shoshan, UBA Segula, Kiryat Motzkin

UBA Segula graduate,
Lt. Shaked Ben-Shoshan
Last week, on Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israel's President Reuven Rivlin awarded the President's Citation for Excellence to 120 IDF soldiers chosen from among thousands of soldiers nominated for the honor by their commanding officers.

One of the 120 this year was Lt. Shaked Ben-Shoshan (22), from Kiryat Bialik and a graduate of Ulpanat Bnei Akiva Segula in Kiryat Motzkin.

Shaked serves in the physically challenging IDF Field Intelligence Unit.
IDF Field Intelligence soldiers in full field camouflage
"Our job is to sit on the border with Egypt and Jordan and collect intelligence from the field. It involves laying in the open for many hours at a time under the highest level of field camouflage, in order to gather the most accurate information possible to protect our borders," Shaked explained.

The IDF Spokesman's Office related that Shaked was chosen for the honor due to the long record of citations of excellence she has earned from her commanding officers throughout her army career. "I was surprised to be chosen," she said, "because most of the soldiers chosen had fought in last summer's Operation Protective Edge or for an exceptional act of bravery. I didn't participate in the operation, so I didn't expect to be chosen."

Kiryat Bialik Mayor Eli Dokorski called Shaked to congratulate her on being chosen and thanked her for the honor she brought to the city of Kiryat Bialik, saying that she was "an exemplary and significant product of religious Zionism, imbued with a sense of purpose and determination."

Shaked is in line to be promoted to the Deputy Commander of her unit in August. YBA and AFYBA salute you, Shaked!

29% of Operation Protective Edge medal winners were religious Zionist soldiers

IDF Medal of Honor Award Ceremony (photo:
When the IDF Spokesman's Office released the names of the 24 combat soldiers who earned the IDF Chief of Staff Medal of Honor for acts of bravery under fire during Operation Protective Edge, one statistic stood out: seven of the 24 (a disproportional 29.2%) were graduates of religious Zionist educational institutions, including one student and three graduates of Hesder Yeshivot.

This is yet another testimonial to the revolution of leadership in Israeli society that the Yeshivot Bnei Akiva Educational Network has led over the past 75 years, Training Israel's Future

Cpl. Yehuda Wishlitski being congratulated by
IDF Chief of Staff  (photo:

At YBA, we like to think of our graduates as Torah Warriors™; on the front lines for Israel’s survival, and in the forefront of Jewish Education.

Eitan Ozery, the Director General of the Hesder Yeshiva Association in Israel, expressed it best when he said, "Hesder Yeshivot educate toward the Jewish value of 'mesirut nefesh' (self-sacrifice) in the face of battle. The Beit Midrash (study hall) is their source of fortitude; and their strength of character stems from the Torah."

The seven religious Zionist medal winners are:

  • Cpl. Yehuda Wishlitski, a student at Yeshivat Hesder Beit Shean
  • Staff Sgt. Erez Halfon, a graduate of Yeshivat Hesder Beit El
  • Sgt. Matanya Maguri, a graduate of Yeshivat Hesder Yaffo
  • Lt. Elishama Jacobs, a graduate of Yeshivat Hesder Alon Moreh
  • Sgt. Yuval Heyman, from Efrat, whose family received the medal posthumously
  • Lt. Eitan Feund, from Jerusalem, who risked his life charging into a tunnel to retrieve the body of his fallen fellow officer, Lt. Hadar Goldin
  • Sgt. Roni Jackson, a religous female soldier from Kochav Hashachar, who spotted a band of terrorists emerging from a tunnel near Kibbutz Sufa and directed cannon fire to the site, thus saving many lives.

Meet CATCH THE JEW author, Tuvia Tenenbom

I'm reading this book now and it is really funny. Tenenbom skewers everyone in the MIddle East, but is especially critical of the PA officials he interviews (as pathological liars), and the extreme Left Israelis who support the PA (as naive hypocrites). I recommend the book; and if you are in NYC on February 23, you may want to meet the author himself at this AFYBA event.

Yeshivat Hesder Hakotel overseas students volunteer for Bnei Akiva in Israel

Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Baruch Weider ( center, bottom row), with the Yeshivat Hakotel Shabbat Irgun shlichim

Yona Budo
on Yeshivat Hakotel roof
Each year a group of Hesder students from Yeshivat Hakotel in Jerusalem’s Old City leaves the yeshiva's Beit Midrash for a long weekend to volunteer as counselors for the Bnei Akiva Youth Movement’s annual Shabbat Irgun. This year, the 30 Israeli students were joined by 15 American students from the yeshiva’s Overseas Students Program, for a uniquely memorable experience interacting with Israeli youngsters. 

The group decided to dedicate themselves to the challenge in order to pay honor to the memory of Staff Sgt. Evyatar Turgeman, an Israeli Hesder student at Yeshivat Hakotel who was killed in action during last summer’s Operation Protective Edge. Turgeman was an avid Bnei Akiva member and leader of the youth movement in his home town of Beit Shean, where he graduated from YBA Beit Shean.

Staff Sgt. Evyatar Turgeman, z"l
Veteran immigrant from the US, Yona Budo, had this to say about his friend and former chevruta (study partner) at Hakotel: "Evyatar was serious about everything he did. Already in our first year at Hakotel he knew what he expected from himself. He was straight as an arrow and very serious about learning Torah; something you don't see in many 18-year-old boys. We want to expose the Bnei Akiva kids to this weekend to the traits that Evatar personified - genuine integrity, and a clear conviction to holiness and serving Hashem."

Rabbi Stewart Weiss on YBA Yeshivat Hesder Hakotel in the Jerusalem Post

Jerusalem Post, Friday, October 31, 2014
Heroes and villains 

LONE SOLDIERS who study at Yeshivat Hakotel
take a break from training at their base. (Courtesy)
Whenever I start to get depressed or disenchanted by the state of Jewish affairs, I throw some cold water on my face and look in the direction of some of the amazing people within our Jewish community. People who are devoted to decency, humanity, the Jewish state and the Jewish way of life. And that revitalizes me and brings back hope.

I recently attended a Succot dinner at Yeshivat Hakotel, honoring the more than 120 lone soldiers from around the world who have chosen to study at Hakotel and volunteer in the IDF. These enthusiastic participants in the Mahal program leave their family, their friends and their “normal” routine to come to Israel and put their lives on the line for the state. Almost all of them end up becoming citizens, marrying here and staying in Israel, and many of them “drag” their families after them.

I asked one of the boys, Barak Klammer from Woodmere, how his parents felt about him serving in a combat unit in the Givati Brigade. “A little nervous,” he said, “but a lot proud.”

Nati Wind of Teaneck told me: “All the questions Americans ask – ‘Why are you here? Are you scared? Are you coming back?’ – don’t even register with me. This is where I belong.”

Another young man, Ami Younger from Montreal, was one of 100 Hakotel students who fought in the recent Gaza war and is now married and studying economics at Bar-Ilan University. “I was raised in Canada,” he said with a smile, “but I grew up in Israel.”

Friday night Yeshivat Hakotel Kabbalat Shabbat services at the Western Wall Plaza.  (Courtesy)
Hakotel is a fascinating institution. In the days following the Six Day War, the government was determined to establish a firm Jewish presence in the Old City. The Jordanians, during their 19-year occupation of Jerusalem, had demolished the synagogues and desecrated the Western Wall, dumping garbage and grazing their animals there. An institution needed to be built that would restore and reflect the spiritual intensity of the Holy City, and fill its ancient streets with the sound of Torah study. Yeshivat Hakotel was born, and has become famous for the hundreds of boys who march down to the Kotel each Friday night, leading the entire plaza in song and dance.

Rav Chaim Yeshayahu Hadari, one of the original founders of Hakotel and still a teacher there, recounts how archeologists discovered a large mound of ashes beneath a home (known today as “the Burnt House”) in the Old City, ashes dating from the destruction of the Temple. “When a Jewish boy marries,” says the rabbi, “there is a custom to place ashes on his forehead in memory of the Temple. I take some of these same ashes and place it on our students, not just to remember the tragedy, but to also celebrate the triumph of the Jewish people, who have returned forever to Jerusalem.”

IDF Chaplains convene at Yeshivat Hesder Shadmot Neria

Chief IDF Chaplain, Rabbi Rafi Peretz

A meeting was held last week of all chaplains serving in the IDF Central Command at the YBA-affiliated Yeshivat Hesder Shadmot Neria, at Moshav Shadmot Mechola in the Jordan Valley, to discuss the lessons learned from their experiences during Operation Protective Edge this summer.

In one of the joint sessions with students of the yeshiva who participated in the fighting in Gaza, the student-soldiers raised a number of concrete suggestions on how to improve the relationships between combat soldiers and IDF Chaplains during time of war.

Chief IDF Chaplain, Rabbi Rafi Peretz, a graduate of YBA Netiv Meir in Jerusalem, gave a Torah lecture to the yeshiva students, and used the opportunity to stress the immense power and fortitude of the Jewish nation, from the beginning of history until our generation. The strength and fortitude demonstrated by our soldiers and citizens under fire during Operation Protective Edge was yet another testimony to the heritage of strength that our people have always drawn from the Torah and our traditions.

YBA and AFYBA Mourn 3 Graduates Killed in Operation Protective Edge

Three of the 64 IDF soldiers and seven Israeli civilians killed during the 50 days of Operation Protective Edge were graduates of Yeshivot Bnei Akiva high schools.

The Yeshivot Bnei Akiva Educational Network in Israel and the American Friends of YBA extend their condolences to the families all the fallen soldiers and civilian casualties, and in particular to the families of our three alumni:

Capt. Tsvi Kaplan, 28, of Kibbutz Merav, was killed in Gaza. Kaplan was set to become a company commander in the Golani Brigade in the coming months. He is a graduate of YBA Yavne, Haifa

Chief Warrant Officer Rami Kahlon, 39, a non-commissioned officer serving in the Paratroopers Brigade, died after succumbing to wounds he had sustained in Gaza the week before. He is a graduate of YBA Beit Shmuel, Hadera and is the father of two students presently studying in the YBA high schools in the city.

St.-Sgt. Evyatar Turgeman, 20, from Beit She'an, was killed on July 18 morning in a firefight with terrorists in Gaza. Turgeman served in the Paratroopers Brigade. He was a graduate of YBA Beit Shean and student at YBA Yeshivat Hesder Hakotel.

Read about all 64 IDF soldiers who gave their lives in service to their country in the Jerusalem Post In Memoriam coverage.

Yehi Zichram Baruch.



YBA Sussya graduate, Yeshurun Tzoran (24) is a career officer in the Border Police, the Israel Police Force's paramilitary unit responsible for guarding Israel's borders from infiltration by terrorists. Last Sunday, Yeshurun put his intuition, reflexes and training to good use to do just that.

"I leaned into the car to turn off the engine and remove the driver from the vehicle. He began driving, dragging me with him. I pulled out my pistol, cocked the hammer and pointed it at him. While doing this I realized that the car interior looked very suspicious, like a car-bomb," explained Yeshurun Tzoran, the Border Police officer responsible for the arrest of a Palestinian terrorist trying to cross into Israel to carry out a bomb attack.

The terrorist bomber that Yeshurun stopped and arrested later admitted in interrogation that he was on his way to blow up the car-bomb he was driving in the heart of Tel Aviv.

We congratulate you, Yeshurun, for your diligence and bravery in carrying out your mission. You have no doubt saved countless innocent lives. We are proud of you!

The following is a translation of the Ynet News report on the incident by Noam Dvir, Ynet News, 27.7.2014:

Foiled attack: "Driver was wearing a wig, with gas canisters in the car" 

Border Police officer Yeshurun Tzoran saw a suspicious car approaching his roadblock and ordered the driver to stop. When he saw the car’s contents, he drew his gun and stopped the driver: "I feel good" 

The incident occurred on Sunday morning near the checkpoint between Beitar Ilit and Tzur Hadassah. With the help of his Border Police unit and soldiers from the Taoz battalion of the military police, Yeshurun managed to overpower the driver and discover two pipe bombs, gas cylinders, explosives, and a detonator in the car. The driver was arrested and taken in for interrogation.

Yeshurun Tzoran was in command of the Border Police patrol that set up the spontaneous roadblock about 100 meters from the entrance to the checkpoint. When the suspicious driver approached they told him to stop. After he resisted the calls to halt, Tzoran pulled him out of the car and neutralized him.

- What made you suspicious of the vehicle?

"I saw that the driver was wearing a wig, big sunglasses and had a stubbly beard. I didn’t see what was inside the car until I was leaning in with my pistol pointed at him. The car was filled with gas canisters with colored wires between them.”

“There was no rear seat, only front seats - the entire back was full of gas canisters. My soldiers and the military police helped me neutralize the driver and then took him to the checkpoint. We closed the area and called in a bomb squad to neutralize the explosives in the car. "

Zoran explained that setting up spontaneous roadblocks a short distance from the permanent checkpoint is standard operating procedure in times of high tension or intelligence reports of potential terrorist activity in the area. "We are trained for just for such events," he said.

- How do you feel now?

"I couldn’t feel any better. I feel happy that we saved many lives in Israel. But then again, this is our job. I have no doubt that any of my soldiers would have done the same thing."