values education

Sometimes Leadership is Thrust Upon Us

Racheli Frenkel is not your typical national leader. Usually, a leader develops gradually, gaining in stature and prominence with the passage of time. But occasionally, seemingly ordinary people are thrust by extraordinary circumstances onto the national stage, to be universally recognized for their leadership qualities, despite their previous anonymity. Racheli Frenkel is such a leader.

Svetlana's Angels: UBA Arad makes a wedding

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 take to the streets to boost the nation's morale

Stabbing, shooting and vehicular attacks by Palestinians against Jews  - as many as four times a day - have left ten Israelis dead and over a hundred injured in the first half of October. While the Israel Police and Border Police seem to be on patrol nearly everywhere, the first-responders in most attacks were regular citizens who carry licensed pistols; and in most cases, the perpetrators were neutralized within minutes.

YBA students handing out free Israeli flags in Jerusalem
With no let-up in sight, the national mood has become increasingly one of caution and fear - just the purpose of such random acts of terror. But at YBA our answer to terrorism is simple: "Am Yisrael Chai!"

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'."

Profiles in Leadership: One Jew in search of the10 Lost Tribes of Israel

Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail, z"l 
Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail, was laid to rest on September 16, 2015. Since 1961, when he served as a rabbi/teacher at YBA Nechalim, he had dedicated his life to research and activity on behalf of the dispersed of Israel, in particular, research regarding the fate of the Ten Lost Tribes.

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.

Religious students in Israel are less proficient in English than their Secular peers

English week at Ulpanat Bnei Akiva Neria
A recently released study of the educational systems in Israel revealed that religious-Zionist high school graduates in Israel were less prepared for university-level English than their secular peers.

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
"To some extent this is understandable, given the extra hours and emphasis on Jewish Studies in religious schools that doesn't exist in secular schools," said Elchanan Glatt, the Director General of the Yeshivot Bnei Akiva Educational Network in Israel, "still, these findings are worrisome for religious Zionist educators. Perhaps in the past some elements in the religious Zionist public saw the study of foreign languages as unimportant. But that worldview is no longer relevant. Today it is clear to everyone that speaking a foreign language fluently, especially English, is an essential part of a high-quality education."

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."

YBA dedicates 5 new school buildings in Yehuda and Shomron - Israel's Heartland

Elchanan Glatt addressing crowd at
YBA Ma'arav Shomron
The Yeshivot Bnei Akiva educational network is not willing to even think about a building freeze in Judea and Samaria. In fact, the YBA schools in Yehuda and Shomron are undergoing a construction boom like YBA hasn't known for many years.

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:

The new campus of YBA Orot Yehuda in Efrat was dedicated on Sunday, with videotaped greetings from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and the Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky. On hand were the mayor of Efrat, Oded Ravivi, and the General Director of the YBA Educational Network, Elchanan Glatt, who couldn't contain his excitement as he spoke in front of the thousands of well wishers in attendance.
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.

One Israeli family has found the best way to remember a fallen soldier

Major Benaya Rhein, z"l
Nine years have passed since the life of Major Benaya Rhein, z"l, was cut short by a Hizbalah anti-tank missile, just two days before the end of the Second Lebanon War.

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: 

How Israeli students learn to love the Land of Israel

Rahavam 'Gandi' Ze'evi
Two students from Ulpanat Bnei Akiva Even Shmuel received the 2015 Ministry of Education Ze’evi Award for Excellence in Land of Israel Studies. The prize is named after Israeli war hero and MK, Rahavam Ze'evi ("Gandi"), who was assassinated by a terrorist in 2001. Ze'evi was known for his patriotism, deep love for the Land of Israel and strongly nationalistic political views.

Hila Itam and Herut Yered submitted a research paper exploring the reasons why the Jordanian Legion’s officers allowed their soldiers to participate in the massacre of Jewish residents and Hagana fighters following the surrender of Kfar Etzion on the eve of Israel’s independence in 1948.

'Gandi' with troops during 1956 Sinai Campaign
Hila explained that she chose the subject because her great grandmother served in the Hagana with Rahavam Ze'evi, and at that time she was the radio operator in Jerusalem who received the final message – “the queen has fallen” – from the fighters defending Kfar Etzion till their last bullet was spent.

UBA Even Shmuel was established by the Shafir Regional Council in 1979 as a residential high school to serve girls from the religious moshavim (agricultural settlements) in the northern Negev region. Today the school serves 420 students in grades 7-12, and attracts students from all over Israel due to the many awards it has earned over the years for academic excellence.

YBA Givat Shmuel ranked among the top schools in Israel

YBA Givat Shmuel Beit Midrash
YBA Givat Shmuel was ranked among the top high schools in Israel, with a 97% matriculation rate and a 95% induction rate for IDF service.
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.

UBA Kfar Pines students take third prize in national Ecological Studies competition

Two students from UBA Kfar Pines, Shira Algavish and Leah Ifargan, won third place in a national competition for Ecological Studies sponsored by the Ben Gurion University of the Negev. Their study focused on the application of biological pest control in agriculture as an alternative to the more commonly used chemical solutions.

“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.

View Promo Video of 2014 'Rabbanit Week' at UBA Kfar Pines

2 UBA Segula seniors earn Advanced Placement B.A. degrees

Two twelfth-grade students from UBA Segula, Tzofia Ronen and Moriah Ben-Sassoon, earned B.A. degrees in Computer Sciences from the University of Haifa while still in the twelfth grade through the university’s Etgar Program, which offers highly motivated and achievement oriented high school students extracurricular advanced placement courses leading to college degrees.

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.

View video of UBA Segula's 2014 'March of the Living' Tour of Poland

Six YBA students win academic scholarships

The Neve Sha’anan College in Haifa granted full academic scholarships toward earning a B.A. degree to six girls in the YBA network: Noa Attias, Sapir Amar and Sapir Simchi from UBA Or Akiva, and Chen Cohen, Tehila Maman and Tiferet Shimeon from UBA Meron.
Tehila Maman
Tiferet Shimeon
Chen Cohen

“We pride ourselves with giving each and every girl the attention and support she needs in order to bring out her full potential for excellence, with openness, dialogue and love,” said the Rosh Ulpana of UBA Or Akiva, Mrs. Bilha Bussi, in congratulating her students for their accomplishments.

UBA Meron was established in 1975 and serves over 315 students from the towns and settlements in the Galilee, while UBA Or Akiva was established 25 years later, in 2000, and serves today 111 students for the town of Or Akiva and the surrounding area.
View video of 2014 Elul activities at UBA Meron

15 YBA schools included among the top schools in Israel

The Ministry of Education released last week its list of top ranking high schools in Israel. This is the third time that the ministry has used a ranking system featuring a variety of parameters to determine which schools are the leading "value-laden" schools in the country, rather than basing school ranking solely the percent of students matriculating for admittance to institutions of higher education. According to the ministry's ranking system, 15 of the top 261 high schools (6%) belong to the Yeshivot Bnei Akiva educational network in Israel.

YBA Director General,
Elchanan Glatt
 Elchanan Glatt, Director General of YBA, said in response to the publication of the new ranking, "We are proud of our faculty members, who invest in each and every student. These rankings show that education toward Torah values and excellence go hand in hand. We will continue in this path of value-laden education, because we are convinced that it is the right way."

The teachers in the top 261 schools were rewarded with salary bonuses raging from $750 to $2,000 based on their school's relative position on the list. 
The relative weighting of the various measures were adjusted this year, after critics of the new ranking system last year claimed that the weighting favored schools in the religious Zionist sector. Even after the adjustments, however, about 40% of the top 261 schools this year were from religious Zionist educational networks.

The ranking system measures applied to over a thousand high schools in Israel included:

  • individual instruction plans according to each student's abilities and disabilities
  • consistency of ongoing faculty involvement in the implementation of instruction plans
  • level of faculty in-service training for ongoing professional advancement
  • inclusion of special needs students in school framework and extent of mainstreaming
  • faculty interventions to reduce student drop-out rate
  • percentage of graduates serving in IDF and National Service
  • involvement of students in voluntary community service projects (Tikun Olam)
  • percentage of graduates achieving full matriculation certificates and average scores
  • level of studies offered in Humanities, Mathematics and the exact Sciences
  • maintaining a matriculation examination process free of irregularities
  • rate of improvement in all parameters over previous year's scores
The YBA (yeshiva) and UBA (ulpana) high schools making the top schools list are:
  1. YBA Kinor David, Ateret .........................(joined YBA in 2010; 120 students)
  2. YBA Beit Shmuel, Hadera ........................(established in 1962; 210 students)
  3. YBA Pirchei Aharon, Kiryat Shmuel .......(established in 1961; 317 students)
  4. YBA Lapid Torat Nachum, Modiin .........(established in 1998; 823 students)
  5. YBA Ra'anana, Ra'anana ..........................(established in 1960; 308 students)
  6. YBA Sussya, Sussya ..................................(established in 1998; 158 students)
  7. YBA Aderet, Bat Yam ...............................(established in 1970; 274 students)
  8. UBA Neot Avraham, Arad ........................(established in 1968; 163 students)
  9. UBA Orot Modiin, Modiin ........................(established in 1998; 713 students)
  10. UBA Segula, Kiryat Motzkin ......................(established in 1965; 529 students)
  11. UBA Neve Ruchama, Jerusalem ................(joined YBA in 2008; 288 students)
  12. UBA Or Akiva, Or Akiva ...........................(established in 2000, 111 students)
  13. UBA Reut, Petach Tikvah ...........................(joined YBA in 1984, 353 students)
  14. UBA Neria, Neria ........................................(established in 2004; 279 students)
  15. UBA Tzfira, Zafaria ....................................(established in 1967; 626 students)
  16. UBA Ramat Karniel, Kfar Pines ................(established in 1960; 458 students)

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.'

YBA Alumni Profiles: Eli Orgad, owner, 'Burger Ranch' fast food chain

Eli Orgad
Eli Orgad was born and raised in Netanya, the sixth son in a family of nine children. "I grew up smelling the feet of my brothers. We slept in the same bed with their legs tucked up by my nose. Eli studied at YBA Yad Avraham, a residential yeshiva high school in Netanya. “I was a rebellious kid,” he recalls, “I didn’t always get up in time for morning prayers. I remember once my father was called into the office after a long day at work, and he said to me, ‘Wait till you have kids and they do to you what you’re doing to me!’”

It was at the yeshiva where Eli got his first taste in business – selling wafer snacks to his fellow students every evening. “The sound of a wafer being crunched while studying at night is something that nobody can resist,” he laughs. "My father always said that I would become a businessman."

At the age of 21, when Eli finished his army service, he couldn’t afford to go straight to college, so he established his first company instead – a cleaning service. At first, the word "company" was a little big for the operation, which relied mainly on him cleaning stairwells himself. But he had a vision, and by the outbreak of the First Lebanon War in 1982, his company was already cleaning forty office buildings. “When you want to go to university and don’t have money, the only thing you can do is cleaning stairwells,” says Eli. He finally received a Law degree 25 years later, from the Ono Academic College.

When war broke out in Lebanon, Eli was called up for reserve duty and his younger brother, Yuval, tried to keep the company alive, but it didn’t really work out. When Eli returned from the battlefield, he discovered that most of his customers had left. But the branch manager of Bank Mizrahi had faith in him. “He extended my credit line because I was in the reserves,” says Eli, “and I have stayed with him in gratitude ever since.”

Eli’s company, Orgad Holdings, Ltd., acquired the Burger King chain of fast food restaurants in Israel in 2003, and later, the more veteran Israeli Burger Ranch chain as well. In 2008 the company merged the two chains and eliminated the Burger King label, making Burger Ranch, with over 100 branches, the sole competitor to MacDonald’s in Israel. “We did extensive market research and found that Israelis preferred the taste of the Burger Ranch products. We saw sales jump 35% in every branch we converted to the Burger Ranch label.”

Eli, a man of faith, is happy to share his worldview: “Israel is the land of endless possibilities. If a person wants to succeed here - he can do anything. That's how I opened business after business. What is stopping someone from opening tomorrow a clothes shop on Sheinkin Street, or any other business? Nothing. You can do whatever you want, start a business and think all day about how to bring in costumers. That's what I do now. Every day I think about how to bring customers to the branches, so they will be full all day long. That’s what I do.”

“But it’s important to always remember to be a good person. I study Gemara once a week, and try to be a good person. Employees remain with us for many years, because I believe we must treat everyone nicely and be a ‘mench’. If an employee is short of money, he knows he can come to me and I'll give him loan.”

What’s Eli’s advice to a 22 year-old, just getting out of the army today?  - “Do what you love to do, as long as you stick persistently to your goal. You cannot be successful without putting your soul into whatever you choose to do. If you can afford college, go study; then, go do whatever your heart desires.”
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. 

YBA Alumni Profiles: Lt. Matan Horesh, YBA Givat Shmuel

In his first interview since Operation Protective Edge, Lt. Matan Horesh talks about his decision to enter the tunnel to search for Lt. Hadar Goldin, his nagging sense of personal failure, the many months he refused to talk about the operation, and his objections to the Facebook campaign to give him a medal

by Tal Ariel Amir, Ma’ariv Online, July 11, 2015
Lt. Matan Horesh (Photo: Ariel Besor)
Sometimes at night Lt. Matan Horesh returns to that day, “Black Friday,” in the Gaza Strip, when he chased through the tunnel where Hamas terrorists dragged the body of Lt. Hadar Goldin, z”l. He relives the scene again; he feel of the dank concrete walls and the darkness that enveloped him and Lt. Eitan Fund. In his dream they stride forward, shoulder to shoulder, searching in the dark for their kidnapped comrade. Suddenly the terrorists step out before them. Fund and Horesh open fire and manage to kill them, then make their way back, carrying Goldin on their backs wounded, but still alive.

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
The battle of Rafah, on Friday, August 1, 2014, is considered one of the most significant battles of Operation Protective Shield. Three fighters from the Givati recon unit, the commander, Major Benaya Sarel, Lt. Hadar Goldin and Staff Sergeant Liel Gidoni, were killed by Hamas an hour after the announcement of a cease-fire. The attempted abduction of Goldin and the heroic effort to rescue him resonated loudly in the media. But while Fund was presented as the hero who found the evidence that led to the pronouncement of Goldin's death, it seemed that Horesh was absent from the headlines. His frustrated friends pressured him to tell about his part in the incident, but the officer preferred to remain silent.

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)
In his first in-depth interview, Lieutenant Horesh, who will start next week training cadets at the IDF Combat Officer Training Base, discusses his decision to enter the tunnel with Fund, the months of silence about the operation and his reservations about the campaign calling on the IDF to give him a medal: “I knew that the intentions were good, but I really disliked the campaign, because I was afraid people would think I was behind it," he says. 'I don’t have a Facebook account, so at first, I didn’t know what impact it had on the public and the media. But when people began to mention it to me, I immediately forbade my family to be interviewed and asked them to erase the page.”

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
Saturday, July 19, was set as the day the Givati Reconnaissance Battalion would enter Gaza. The fighters’ objective was to seek out and secure tunnels used by Hamas combatants in the Rafah District. After a day of searching without success, the regiment returned to Israel, and the next night went into the Khirbet Khizeh neighborhood further to the north. “We situated ourselves with the battalion's command post in one of the houses, around which the rest of our units were stationed,” says Horesh. “In the morning one of our units identified three terrorists coming up from the ground, and killed one of them. The our battalion identified two snipers. One of them was killed and the other captured and used as a source of information. Because of him we found a tunnel with a cache of weapons, hidden under the rubble of a house.

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)
The battalion came and went to and from Khirbet Khizeh, until it was decided to return to the area of Rafah again, a day before the kidnapping. There were rumors of a ceasefire and we wanted to find the tunnel that we couldn’t find on Sunday,” says Horesh. “We congregated at the staging area and then I had a moment of crisis. I was tired and I thought about the squad of soldiers I got. There was no time for a briefing and I didn’t really know the soldiers well. I felt alone. I found a few seconds of silence and opened my cellphone. That was a mistake. WhatsApp was full of messages about Roey Peles, my friend from the officers' course. They all wrote that he was killed, but I didn’t react. I called a friend and heard that I missed the funeral and shiva. I hung up the phone, I sat down on the sand and just cried. That was the first time someone so close to me was killed. After a few minutes I realized that I had to separate my emotions from the fighting, and to work only with my head. From that moment, I turned off my phone and functioned like a robot. I can understand the dilemma and the desire of soldiers to hear what's going on with other forces, but when you need to fight, it hurts motivation and can be depressing.”

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)
“I remember that shortly before that, Benaya reported that a sniper was spotted in the building across from his position and asked for someone to pick him off. Just then the battalion commander called for all unit commanders to report in, and only Benaya didn’t respond. Another officer reported that he could see bodies on the ground. They were Benaya and Liel. Not far from them was the body of a
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)
The commander, Major Gino, Horesh and the other soldiers rushed to the area of the shooting and took cover behind the greenhouses. On the radio they heard that Lt. Fund went down into the tunnel to search for Goldin. “Eitan realized it would be difficult for him to move forward with all his battle gear on, so he came back up," Horesh said. “We arrived at the place just as he came out of the tunnel. I saw the tunnel entrance on the left corner of the building with its iron lid ajar. Eitan said he could not see anything in the tunnel, so I told him I would go down with him because I had a flashlight on my rifle. We took off our flak jackets and helmets, and took a walkie-talkie. Eitan took a pistol from someone and we went down the iron ladder. The tunnel was completely dark. The flashlight illuminated just a few meters ahead. The air smelled of dust. Eitan shot into the dark, but suddenly his pistol jammed. We decided to continue anyway, and around every 40 meters I shot into the darkness ahead. My ears were constantly ringing because I had no earplugs."

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
Matan Horesh was born in Bat Yam, and raised in Holon. He attended the YBA yeshiva high school in Givat Shmuel and he spent two years before recruitment at the Shavei Hevron Hesder Yeshiva. In March 2012 he joined the Tracking, Engineering and Sabotage Company of the Givati Brigade. When he finished his officer training course he was supposed to lead a team that was two months away from the end of their basic training, and then continue commanding them in operational missions. The young officer risked his life for a soldier who he didn’t know. He talks about camaraderie and friendship as the highest values, and doesn’t try to hide the difficult moments he experienced during the operation.

“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.”
How did you manage to go on?
“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)
You weren’t offended?
“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.


YBA has found the secret to instilling a love of learning Torah in the hearts of their students: a return to the classical formula of Hevruta study in the Beit Midrash

By Moshe Glanz, ARUTZ SHEVA NEWS (translation)

YBA yeshiva high school students in the Beit Midrash
In the ongoing discussions over the past several years about how to make Gemara (Talmud) study more popular among yeshiva high school students, the YBA educational network began developing two years ago a new method of teaching Talmud, which has gained momentum in the past year. This year the method was applied in 16 different Bnei Akiva yeshiva high schools throughout the country, and the network plans on expanding the system to more schools next year. The goal is to double the number of participating students from 800 to 1,500, with the assistance of the Religious Education Department of the Ministry of Education.

Not like Math and English

On of the initiators of the change was Rabbi Meir Toiber, Rosh Yeshiva of YBA Netiv Meir in Jerusalem. In an interview with B’sheva, Rabbi Toiber explained that the decision for the change was made after a gradual decline in the total number of hours dedicated to Gemara study in yeshiva high schools over the past 15 years for various reasons. As a result, the Beit Midrash (study hall) was hardly being used for the purpose of independent learning. "We realized that in order to instill the love of Torah in our students we would need to turn the situation around 180 degrees."

What was the method of study before the change?

"The students perceived the Morning Seder (study session) in the Beit Midrash as preparation time for the class in Talmud that followed, in which the teacher would cover everything they needed to know anyway. This created a feeling that Talmud was just like any other subject. We finally came to the conclusion that the reason why our students were lacking motivation to study Talmud," he says. "was that they felt the same, whether studying for a Talmud lesson, a math lesson or an English lesson. But if we look deeply into the concept of Torah study, we understand that the Talmudic competence is acquired not only from hearing a lecture, but through struggling to understand a passage in the text through the give-and-take of independent study with a hevruta (study partner)."

The Talmud consists of the Mishna, Gemara and commentaries
Rabbi Yehuda Felix, who until six months ago, was the head of Education Department at Yeshivot Bnei Akiva educational network, properly understood the need to change the equation. , and together with Rabbi Toiber and the financial backing of YBA benefactor, Mr. Benjamin Landy, it was decided to change the Morning Seder both literally and figuratively. "This is a significant change;" Rabbi Toiber states. "it is not just about learning in an hour and a half. We moved the Talmud lesson to before the Morning Seder so that everything learned in the classroom becomes preparation for the Seder session itself, where students sit with their study partners and actively acquire the skills for learning Talmud." According to Rabbi Toiber, this self-instruction experience leads to a love of Torah because it provides the natural connection to the Torah that was so lacking before.

The results were not long in coming. A few months after some of the yeshiva high schools decided to adopt and began implementing the system, the initiators realized that they had caught a wave. "I had students tell me happily: ‘Before Talmud was just another subject for me; now I understand that what I am doing is learning to learn Torah.’” That proves to me that this is a big change," Rabbi Toiber says enthusiastically.  "Just recently, I went into the Beit Midrash of one of our yeshiva high schools to look for a certain teacher, and I saw dozens of boys sitting and learning with their hevruta partners. I looked to my right and to my left and couldn’t find their rabbi. When I approached the students and asked them where he was, they replied: ‘He is in reserve duty [in the IDF].’"

Rabbi Toiber could not resist and asked: “So why are you sitting and learning in the Beit Midrash instead of playing ball outside?” The students did not understand the question. "It's an amazing thing," he continues smiling. "This shows that the change worked. The students understood that they acquired Torah by sitting and learning with their hevruta. This should not to be taken as a given – these are fruits that we had not seen before. At the end of the year we visited all the Yeshivot and met with students, teachers and yeshiva heads. They filled out feedback sheets, and we discovered a huge surge in love of learning Torah. All the measures of attention, attachment and motivation were well above anything we had ever seen before."

Does not contradict matriculation

It is no secret that in Bnei Akiva yeshiva high schools there is tension between the desire to study Torah and the connection to the real world. But according to Rabbi Toiber, the struggle between different forces only proves that Torah study must receive greater expression. "Over the years the students have come to expect and demand high achievement levels in both general and Judaic studies matriculation scores. This “wanting it all” demands that we provide enrichment in both directions," he explains. "Ultimately, the ideal of the yeshiva is that Torah should influence every aspect of life - everything," he says. "Our concept is: be a military man, be a lawyer, be a farmer, merchant or be anything you want; but on one condition: that you stay connected to the Torah. The connection to Torah must not be just intellectual; it must be a spiritual link. It is clear to me that students should learn for matriculation tests, but all subjects must be wrapped up in the connection to Torah."

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."

When learning Torah becomes achievement oriented, don’t you lose something of the value of learning Torah for its own sake?

"First of all, that’s a great question. And you’re right, that is a difficult challenge," says Rabbi Toiber. "But it is important to emphasize that we are not talking here about just a positive learning experience." According to him, the bottom line must be that the students master in depth the Talmud they were studying during the year. "When we ask the students what is the conclusion of a Talmudic passage they learned, they need to know the answer, and not just that they enjoyed studying it. That’s not how you raise Talmidei Chachamim. We need to work simultaneously on both aspects, so that on the one hand they will learn the proper tools of Torah study with their hevruta that will serve them later in life, and on the other hand to professionally measure their scholastic achievement."

How do you intend to move the process forward in the years ahead?

"We are moving forward in two ways: first by training our Talmud teachers to use this method effectively. We are already doing this and we will do even more next year. Secondly, this year we included 16 Bnei Akiva yeshiva high schools, and by expanding next year to 22 schools, the number of students participating in the initiative will double. Thus, gradually we believe, we will succeed in bringing back the sounds of Talmud study to all the yeshiva high schools in the Bnei Akiva network." Rabbi Toiber explains, "Our goal is to increase Torah and glorify it."

Tikun Olam - UBA Orot Modiin student wins Volunteer of the Year Award

All 74 schools in the YBA Educational Network educate their students to put into practice the Jewish values of Tikun Olam and Gemilut Chasadim through weekly volunteer activities in the community, effectively improving the lives of thousands of needy Israelis of all ages.

UBA Orot Modiin senior, Carmel Amir
In Modiin, a growing young city in the heart of Israel, Mayor Haim Bibas has made a tradition of awarding certificates of appreciation to 15 twelfth graders each year recognizing them for their contributions to the community through their volunteer activities,with one of the 15 nominees being chosen for the Volunteer of the Year Award.

At the high-point of this years ceremony, attended by municipal officials, educators, family and friends of the nominees, Mayor Bibas announced that Carmel Amir (17), from Ulpanat Bnei Akiva Orot Modiin, was the 2015 winner of the coveted award. 

Carmel, who is also a leader in the local Israeli Scouts youth movement, was cited for her contribution to society for her leadership role for the past few years in the city's "Birthday Clowns" project. The project organizes and hosts birthday parties for children from needy families in cooperation with the municipality's welfare department.

Mayor Bibas praised Carmel as a worthy role model for her peers, who gives to others with all her heart. "I makes me feel proud to to be the mayor of a city that is blessed with so many youth who are imbued with the spirit of volunteerism. It begins in the home and extends to the values they learn in our schools. I want to thank our youth for all that they do for the benefit of the community."

Carmel Amir with her fellow "Birthday Clowns" volunteers
UBA Orot Modiin was established in 1998 as one of the first high schools in Modiin, and serves over 700 girls in grades 7 through 12 today. The school has won many awards, and is on the cutting edge of educational technology in Israel, with personal laptops for each student replacing traditional textbooks and paper-based homework assignments.

Learn more about the 74 schools in the YBA Educational Network by viewing the Interactive Map on our website. YBA - TRAINING ISRAEL'S FUTURE.

Harvey Krueger talks about why he supports YBA

Harvey Krueger will be receiving the Statesman Laureate Award at the 36th Annual AFYBA Scholarship and Tribute Gala on June 10th at Guastavino"s in NYC. Harvey is the Vice Chair of Barclays Capital, and a long-time supporter of YBA schools in Israel. Hear what he has to say about the YBA educational network in this one-minute video, and register for the Gala now!