Moshe and Svetlana are both 26 and new immigrants from the former Soviet Union. They met each other in Beer Sheva and fell in love. Svetlana recently lost her mother to cancer and has no contact with her father. Moshe also lost all contact with both his parents after making Aliyah on his own. The couple wanted to marry, but had no resources to afford a traditional Jewish wedding.
|YBA students handing out free Israeli flags in Jerusalem|
This week, YBA high school students fanned out all across Israel to help bolster the resilience of Israel's citizens. They filled traffic intersections in all the major cities waving flags, dancing and singling while handing out 20,000 Israeli flags and bumper stickers saying, "Be strong and we will be strengthened" and "An eternal nation has no fear of the long road ahead."
Students volunteered their free time for these activities out of a sense of social responsibility. "Raising the flag of Israel in these times sends a message to our enemies that we are not bowing to terror," said one student, "we are never going to leave Eretz Yisrael, and we are not afraid."
"Lots of drivers sound their car horns in support; others roll down their windows and yell 'kol hakavod!' ('Good job!') and many thank us," said another participant. "That's the proof that 'Am Yisrael Chai'."
|Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail, z"l|
In 1975, at the urging of his mentor, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, of blessed memory, he founded the non-profit organization, Amishav – for the Dispersed of Israel.
Rabbi Avichail has lectured widely in Israel and abroad, published numerous articles and the Hebrew books HaOvdim B’Eretz Ashur and Shitei Yisrael, the latter of which has been translated into English and French.
In order to assist in aliya and conversion, he wrote and published the booklet Judaism (Hebrew) which has been translated into numerous languages.
Rabbi Avichail was a member of the Rabbinical Court which converted the Belmonte community in Portugal. He facilitated aliya of the BaDerej L’Yerushalayim group from Mexico and the Bnei Menashe group from Peru. He continues to assist the aliya of Bnei Menashe from northeast India (some 1,000 souls to date). Rabbi Avichail has travelled the world, from India, Burma, China, Thailand and Japan to Europe and South America, in order to research, encourage and guide the dispersed of Israel.
Rabbi Avichail was born in Jerusalem in 1932. His parents came from Lithuania and Ukraine. At 16 he was drafted by the Israel Defense Forces during the War of Independence; he completed his service with the rank of sergeant in the Nahal brigade at Kibbutz Yavne. Afterwards he joined Kibbutz Saad, where he lived and worked for five years, and then studied at Yeshivat Kerem BeYavneh and Merkaz HaRav Kook. He received his rabbinical ordination and completed a teaching certificate for Bible studies and Mishna. He has held the positions of community rabbi, students’ rabbi at the Hebrew University, and teacher of Bible and Judaism for all ages. He received the equivalent of a Doctorate in Jewish Professions for his rabbinical studies and publications.
Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail and his wife Rivka were jointly awarded the Yakir Yerushalayim prize [annual citizenship prize in Jerusalem] in 2012. They have six children and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Their home was open at all times to the Bnei Menashe, new converts and all those who wish to study Judaism.
Thousands of citizens of Israel from the Bnei Menashe community will mourn this modest and saintly man, who paved the way for them to begin new lives as Jews in the state of Israel.
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:
|English week at Ulpanat Bnei Akiva Neria|
The study, conducted by Ariel Finkelstein for the 'Ne'emanei Torah Va'Avodah' religious-Zionist movement, was based on a sampling of psychometric exams for college entrance from the years 2000 to 2012. The findings were conclusive: religious students consistently scored 11 and 15 points below secular students in English proficiency, while on par or better than their secular peers in every other subject.
|YBA Educational Network|
Director General Elchanan Glatt
Glatt pointed to two graduates of YBA high schools as personal examples: Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipy Hotovely and Minister of Education Naftali Bennett. "Today's generation sees YBA graduates in the Knesset, and eloquently presenting Israel's case in English in the international media, and they understand the importance of English. They know that English is the international language in computer sciences, medicine, physics and every other scientific field, including the social sciences such as sociology or history."
Glatt stressed that the YBA educational network was taking the findings seriously and working to close the gaps in English proficiency. YBA created a new position for a network-wide English Instruction Supervisor to advise schools on how they can improve. In-service training programs are being planned for English teachers, and measurable benchmark goals are being set for each school. "The process should take two years to fully implement before we will be able to see quantifiable results," he said. "The improvement won't come at the expense of our Jewish Studies program. We have enough hours for English lessons, we just have to invest in making those hours as effective and productive as possible."
|Elchanan Glatt addressing crowd at |
YBA Ma'arav Shomron
Last week, over 3,000 people joined YBA in Elkana to dedicate a new campus for the YBA Ma'arav Shomron boy's yeshiva high school. The event was attended by the mayor of Elkana, Asaf Mintzer, and featured a love performance by singer Avraham Fried.
This week, the opening week of the 5776 school year, featured many other dedication ceremonies:
At the same time, in the presence of the Minister Uri Ariel and YBA officials, a new dormitory facility was being dedicated at the UBA Shirat Hayam Ulpana High School of the Arts for girls in Neve Tzuf.
Meanwhile, the YBA Sussya Yeshiva High School for Environmental Studies was not satisfied with dedicating a new dormitory last week, so it broke ground immediately afterward for the construction of an additional dormitory building there.
Finally, later in the week YBA Mateh Binyamin in Beit El also dedicated a new dormitory building for its many students in the residential track.
Elchanan Glatt: "Yeshivot Bnei Akiva has taken off on a period of unprecedented growth, expansion and excellence. We are proud of our educational path, and proud to be part of the continuing settlement movement throughout the entire Land of Israel."
Yossi Dagan, the mayor of the Shomron Regional Council welcomed the building boom and said: "Naturally, the communal and spiritual atmosphere in the Shomron is conducive for educating students toward Jewish values and connection to the Land of Israel. We congratulate YBA on this building boom, and wish all the schools much success in training our children toward excellence and Jewish values."
There are 74 educational institutions in the YBA network in Israel, including 15 in Yehuda and Shomron ensuring high quality education in Israel's heartland.
CLICK HERE to view an interactive map of YBA schools in Israel.
Yeshivot Bnei Akiva: Training Israel's Future.
Ettinger led his first gym class at the boy's yeshiva high school in 1972, and still works out with his students in order to serve as a personal example of "a healthy soul in a healthy body."
"I have students whose grandfathers were my students!" Ettinger laughs. "I'm going to continue to teach and train with my students for as long as I'm able to - it gives me unbelievable energies."
YBA Nachal Yitzchak was established in 1955 as the fifth residential boy's yeshiva high school in the YBA educational network. In its heyday, the school served over 1,000 students. Today, 485 students attend the school in both residential and non-residential tracks.
|Major Benaya Rhein, z"l|
Benaya was born in 1979 and was the third out of eight children of his parents, Shimon and Chagit. He was raised in Karnei Shomron and graduated from the YBA Netiv Meir yeshiva high school in Jerusalem.
This past week the Rhein family closed a circle, when all seven of Benaya's siblings named a child after him. The first cousin to be named for Benaya was born on the day that he died in 2006, and the seventh cousin named Benaya was born just two weeks ago, on the ninth anniversary of his death.
"All our children decided on their own to name a son after Benaya; we never mentioned it or pressured them to do it," said Chagit Rhein at the Brit Milah ceremony. "We have 24 grandchildren, and it can't be taken for granted that seven of them are named Benaya. When they grow up and ask why they share the same name, we will tell them about their uncle Benaya, who was a true hero; who was taught to love Israel and who died defending our country."
From his childhood, Benaya displayed values of truth, generosity and courage. After the outstanding religious Zionist education he received and YBA Netiv Meir, it was quite natural for him to join the armored corps and to become an outstanding soldier in the training courses he took and in the duties he was given.
At the beginning of the war, Benaya was in transition between duties and had no unit to join. Nevertheless he insisted on receiving a mission, and was appointed to rescue and supply operations. During the war "Force Benaya" conducted many courageous missions and saved the lives of many soldiers. On August 12th, on the way to one more mission inside Lebanon, a missile hit his tank and all the crewmen were killed.
For their bravery, Benaya and his crewmen received the decoration of honor from the Central Command. Benaya is buried in Karnei Shomron in the land of Israel that he loved without condition or compromise.
View memorial video for Major Benaya Rhein:
|YBA Givat Shmuel Beit Midrash|
|Rabbi Shraga Fruchter|
The Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Shraga Fruchter, himself a graduate of YBA Pirchei Aharon near Haifa, attributes the success to love: “When a boy comes to our school and sees how important he is to his teachers, and how the entire staff does everything it can to help him achieve success, it gives him the drive to apply himself with all his abilities.”
When YBA Givat Shmuel was founded in 1972 as a middle school, it was intended to serve as a "feeder school" for boys in the central part of Israel to the 16 residential high schools in the YBA network at that time spread out in rural settlements throughout Israel.
However, in 1978, following requests from the parent association, it was decided to expand the school into - the network's first non-residential comprehensive yeshiva high school. Today, the school serves over 750 students, half of whom from Givat Shmuel and the other half from other cities in the Dan (greater Tel Aviv) urban district. The school offers a residential option for students who live too far to travel by bus each day to the school.
“Our girls come to the ulpana with a lot of positive attributes,” said the project’s coordinator at the ulpana, Mrs. Michal Kinnerti, “I’m proud that our school succeeds in bringing out their inner potential for excellence.”
UBA Kfar Pines was established in 1960 as the first ulpana girl's high school in the YBA educational network. The school was unique at that time for its combination of high-level Torah and secular studies for girls in a residential framework, modeled after the YBA yeshiva high schools for boys. Today the school serves over 450 students from all parts of the state.
Ruchama Hazut, the ulpana’s principal, said, “It inspires pride and admiration to see our students achieve so much academically, while maintaining their humility, good nature and religious beliefs.”
UBA Segula in Kiryat Motzkin was founded in 1965 as the YBA network's third ulpana high school for girls. Today the school serves over 525 students from the Haifa region and entire northern half of Israel.
|YBA Educational Network Chairman, Rabbi Haim Drikman|
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.'
|YBA Nachal Yitzchak, Nechalim|
YBA Nachal Yitzchak, established in 1955, is one of the oldest schools in the YBA educational network. Today the school serves 485 students in both residential and non-residential tracks.
|Lt. Matan Horesh (Photo: Ariel Besor)|
That is the dream that Lt. Horesh, the officer who received a citation for his bravery in battle for what happened that night, prefers to dream. On other nights he wakes up disappointed when the painful reality slaps him in the face. In some dreams, he is walking alone toward the end of the tunnel when he sees the barrel of a gun pointing at him between the eyes, with a terrorist’s finger about to pull the trigger. That's when he wakes up.
|Lt. Hadar Goldin, z"l|
When the IDF’s Citation Commission published its intention to decorate Fund, a friend of the Horesh family decided to open up a Facebook page calling for Lt. Horesh to be awarded the Order of Courage medal. The impact of the campaign on the officer was like an unwanted bear hug. Only later did it become clear that Horesh was on the top of the list of soldiers to receive decorations, along with the other fighters involved in the tunnel episode.
|Lt. Matan Horesh (Photo: Ariel Besor)|
Were you afraid that the public would doubt your worthiness if you were to receive the Citation for Courage because of the campaign?
"At no stage did I stop to think about if receiving a medal would hurt me or not. It’s just that all the hoopla is not my nature. After the operation, I concentrated on my soldiers and our operational deployments in the field. I just didn’t feel comfortable about the campaign. I don’t care about what people think about me; what is most important to me is that I tried to save Hader.
How did you react when you retreated from the Gaza Strip and left Hadar Goldin behind?
The moment when we left Gaza seemed strange to me. I didn’t feel that we are abandoning Hadar, the battalion did everything to find him at all costs, and the evidence of that is that the family was able to give him a burial. However, I had the feeling of a missed opportunity. In the final analysis, we returned to Israel and he was not with us."
Today, a year after Operation Protective Edge, you think Goldin's rescue operation should have been handled differently?
'I have only myself to criticize. Sometimes I think maybe I should have run faster in the tunnel; or maybe I shouldn’t have gone back to get reinforcements. But now, in hindsight, I see that the possibility of finding Hadar was doomed from the start because of the element of time. It took several minutes before it became clear to us that he was abducted, and until we entered the tunnel. In all likelihood by that time he was already out the other side, in the heart of the Hamas stronghold."
"I acted like a robot"
Horesh started Operation Protective Edge as a young second lieutenant, straight out of Officer Training School and intended for the job of Engineering and Sabotage squad commander, in the Givati Brigade’s Reconnaissance Battalion. He received his squad just ten days before the ground forces entered the Gaza Strip, and one day before the start of the operation. Initially Horesh’s squad was intended to deal with the evacuation of the wounded, however, just before the zero hour, his orders were changed to provide security back-up for the company commander, Major Eli Gino. The operation was a challenge for the beginner commanding officer. He did not know his squad of fighters, their strengths and weaknesses, and he had no time to run drills alongside them beforehand.
|Hamas terror tunnel in Gaza|
When did you see Benaya for the first time?
I didn’t know him personally, but I saw him at every briefing with the battalion commander. I remember he always demanded high-quality performance and was highly motivated. The most memorable thing I remember him saying was when he asked the company commander if he would make it home for his wedding, which was scheduled for two weeks later. It impressed me. Everyone told Benaya that the operation will be behind us by then. I was closer with his communications assistant, Liel Gidoni, who went through boot camp with me. I never saw him when he wasn’t smiling and calm.”
|Lt. Matan Horesh (Photo: IDF Sokesperson)|
Did you have bad feelings about the continuation of fighting?
“Just when I was told we were going into Rafah for the last time, because the next day will be a ceasefire, I thought about Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, who were captured on the Lebanon border on the last day before a cease fire. I was afraid that the soldiers will be less vigilant, and that could be a weak point. I spoke with them, I told them to be vigilant and said that it’s impossible to know what will happen; that there may be surprises waiting for us, because a soldier could still be killed tomorrow. After that, I took out my tzitzit, which I had left in my pack because of the heat, and I decided I would wear them until the end of the fighting.”
"We were afraid that everything was booby trapped"
On Thursday night, July 31, the regiment returned to northeast Rafah. The field commander of the battalion, including Horesh and his fighters, settled into one of the buildings. Some 400 meters from them, not far from a complex of greenhouses, Sarel’s forces settled in. "In the morning, as I was about to put on tefillin, one of the soldiers came up to me and told me that a man on a motorcycle had just passed by outside,” Horesh recounts that fateful Friday. “It was weird and I asked them to stay alert. I thought that maybe because of the ceasefire, a few civilians might be returning already to inspect the damage to their homes. I bent down to take the tefillin, then heard a volley of gunfire.”
|The house where Lt. Hadar Goldin was abducted.|
(Photo: IDF Spokesperson)
terrorist. The rescue team approached them and noticed traces of blood leading to the adjoining building, which looked like a kind of watchtower. Inside they found the opening to a tunnel. Once it became clear that Hadar was missing, a “Cannibal Alert” [soldier abducted] situation was declared.”
|Lt. Eitan Fund (Photo: IDF Spokesperson)|
Did you think about the dangers awaiting you in the tunnel?
“Not at first. My body was full of adrenaline and I was just thinking about Hadar. My rifle safety was off with a live bullet in the chamber the whole time we were down there. I thought that if one of the terrorists succeeded to harm me, at least I’d have one bullet to shoot him with before I die. On the top of the tunnel was a wire and I thought it was a booby-trap. I remember that we walked a few minutes following the trail of blood, then we saw the first item that belonged to Hadar. The walkie-talkie didn’t work deep inside the tunnel, so we returned back to report, and then continued searching. As we progressed, we found more of Hadar’s things and there was no doubt he was seriously injured. At one point we got to a fork in the tunnel, so we returned back for reinforcements, and Lt. Shaked Kedar and Staff Sgt. Mekonen Tz'alatz'ao joined us. They also received medals."
Weren’t you afraid it was an ambush?
"That's why we took reinforcements. Tz'alatz'ao was in charge of communications with the officers outside, and Kedar covered us near the fork with his weapon drawn. Eitan and I continued following the blood stains. I saw the drag marks on the ground and realized that Hadar could not walk by himself. We moved about 600 meters and reached a kind of a room with guns, rocket launchers, RPG’s and vests. We were afraid that everything was booby-trapped, but we continued following the tunnel until we got another fork. I noticed blood marks were gone, and it was odd."
What do you think is the reason?
"I believe that the terrorists reached their back-up force and they evacuated Hadar from that point with motorcycles. At that moment Tz'alatz'ao came running and said the brigade commander ordered us out of the tunnel. I was hoping we were called out because they found Hadar. When I realized they hadn’t found him, I was disappointed. But Reconnaissance didn't give up. Our entire force charged the Hamas stronghold, while under fierce gunfire. Our commanders had intelligence information indicating a mosque as the place where is the tunnel exit was located. Our fighters found the opening, but there was no sign Goldin. They were forced to retreat, and two days later our forces returned to Israel."
The silence of warriors
|YBA Givat Shmuel|
“I'll never forget the way we headed back to Israel,” says Horesh recalling those agonizing hours. “The silence of fighters and commanders was like a deafening scream. I saw them all subdued, and it wasn't easy for me to internalize the fact that we had left behind Hadar; we were not able to rescue him. All the way, I thought about his parents, and I wondered how we, as the IDF, would deal with the incident.”
“It wasn’t easy. For three months I refused to talk about the operation or what I went through in the tunnel. I was surprised when I read the media accounts about the search for Hadar, because I didn’t feel as if we did anything unusual. I wasn't interested in all the talk about citations, and I felt I was becoming closed and dispassionate after the operation. Like, ‘Someone’s getting married? That’s nice. Someone died? Well, life goes on.’ I started to become agitated only after representatives of the IDF's Missing Persons Unit interviewed me about the kidnapping. I couldn’t stop replaying in my mind all the efforts we made to rescue Hadar. It was mostly a process of self-flagellation. I was constantly thinking about what I did wrong and what I could have done differently."
Have you tried to talk with professionals?
“I joined the group therapy discussions in the battalion and told the group that the melancholia that overcame me was bothering me. As if the human part of me was buried. Eventually, I got to the point where I was able to discuss my personal feelings.”
As he describes the dilemmas that accompanied him after the war, it is hard not to think about the description of his actions that earned Horesh the IDF citation. “He showed initiative in his actions, fortitude of character and a willingness to carry out his mision above and beyond the call of duty, and at great personal risk,” said the IDF report. Talking about the medal is awkward for Horesh and he squirms uneasily in his chair. “I didn’t go into the tunnel to win a medal. I never thought that trying to prevent the abduction of a fellow soldier was such a heroic action. IDF teaches us about the importance of not abandoning soldiers in the field, so that's what I did.”
In January this year the media reported that Fund would probably get the Bravery Medal, which was changed to the Distinguished Service Medal, how did you feel when your name was not mentioned?
"At first it was a bit strange, but I didn't care. Three people were killed in that battle, and one of them I knew personally, so why should I waste time over the question of whether someone mentioned my name or not?”
|IDF Citation Ceremony (Photo: IDF Spokesperson)|
“Definately not. Eitan received the Distinguished Service Medal, because he initiated the tunnel entrance, and entered first. I do not see any less honor in the citation I received, both of us risked our lives for an important purpose.”
Did the kidnapping changed your military perception?
“One of my goals as an educator of officers now is to emphasize to them the importance of being prepared for any extreme situation. You must not be euphoric going into battle, because the battle will not be waged as you expect. Today I believe that were it not for Operation Protective Edge, I would be a very different commander. There is a difference between talking about the battlefield and being a part of it. This is not just theory, but something I experienced. The decision to reject the position of deputy company commander for now, in order to train another cycle of combat officer cadets, was my own. Future officers are the heart of the IDF and the future generation. They are the ones that will affect the soldiers and pass on what I will teach them.”
Will you tell them about your personal experiences and the search for Goldin in the tunnel?
“I believe that the issue will come up.”
Did Operation Protective Edge have any effect on your desire to remain in the army?
I have signed on for another year, and I am not ruling out the option to stay on even longer. I always knew about the importance of the IDF for our country’s defense, but after Operation Protective Edge, that knowledge has been sharpened even more.
|MK Nissan Slomiansky|
|YBA yeshiva high school students in the Beit Midrash|
|The Talmud consists of the Mishna, Gemara and commentaries|
Following the success of the initiative, YBA wants to expand to an even higher level. "We want to eventually include another measure of success – we hope to have our students writing term papers on the Talmudic issues they dealt with during the year."
|UBA Orot Modiin senior, Carmel Amir|
|Carmel Amir with her fellow "Birthday Clowns" volunteers|
|UBA Meron Robotics Team receiving prize |
from Minister Danny Danon
Science, Space and Technology Minister Danny Danon, was very pleased that the competition was won by a group of girls. "One of the main goals I set for myself upon entering the ministry was to significantly increase the number of girls studying the physical sciences at the junior high and high school level," he said. In congratulating the winners, the minister stressed the importance of such competitions in sparking the imagination and creativity of young students, as Robotics promises to be the dominant field of research and economic growth for the future.
UBA Meron was established in 1975 a short distance from the YBA Bar Yochai yeshiva high school for boys, at Moshav Meron in the Upper Galilee, where the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai is located. The ulpana serves over 300 girls, mostly from towns and agricultural settlements in northern Israel. The ruins of the ancient town of Meron, mentioned in the Book of Joshua, are located just above the moshav on the southern slope of Mount Meron,
To learn more about our schools visit the interactive map of YBA institutions in Israel on our website.
|Maj. Gen. Hagai Topolinsky|
In response, Topolinsky said, "Your Hesder Yeshivot are producing high-quality individuals who are role models for the other soldiers of Zionism and Jewish values. This is a bonus for the IDF - an added value - that is unparalleled." He added, "Our major challenge in Israeli society is to bring together and unite the various sectors of our population. You have an important role to play in achieving that goal."
General Topolinsky recalled to the rabbis his personal memories of commanding Hesder soldiers in the army, "The norms of behavior, Jewish values and Zionist idealism that the Hesder yeshiva students bring with them to the army, I tell you, are the envy of the entire community, including secular Israelis. It is a pleasure to serve as their commander, and we very much appreciate them."