Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Jerusalem of Gold and of Pre-State Undergrounds

Dr. Yossi Londin
Jewish History and Civics Department, Orot Israel College

During the month of Marcheshvan, some seventy Orot Israel College students from the history and Eretz Yisrael studies departments visited central Yerushalayim with stops at several interesting sites, including the Museum of Underground Prisoners, Beit HaRav Kook, and the King David Hotel.
During the course of the tour, the students were fascinated to hear about the Etzel and Lechi fighters’ heroism both inside and outside the prison walls. Particular focus was placed on the stories of the female Etzel and Lechi volunteers who paid a heavy personal price for their bravery and dedication.
 At the Museum of Underground Prisoners, the discussion quickly turned from the events of the 1940s to current events and related educational questions – such as Menachem Begin’s attitude toward the so-called “ethnic demon” (“Ashkenazim? Sephardim? Jews!”); the death penalty for terrorists; and the question of military service or national service for girls today.
Beit HaRav Kook was the next stop, where the students discussed Rav Kook’s heritage and its educational significance. From there, the tour moved to the King David Hotel, where the Orot students learned about the Jewish underground fighters’ gallant stand against the British Empire. The students enjoyed hearing about how the fighters would stroll around the area in couples – as if they were out on innocent “dates” – while actually scouting out potential approach, escape, and attack routes.
Afterwards, the students discussed the educational value of historical tours in general and studying the period of the pre-State underground militias in particular. They also talked about the Education Ministry’s new policy of integrating school trips within the curriculum and the matriculation exams.
When the Orot students went home at the end of the jam-packed day, they left behind many satisfied storekeepers and business owners, who were thrilled by the sudden influx of young customers at lunchtime. Thus, not only did the Orot students have a wonderful time learning about one period in Yerushalayim’s history, but they were even able to help ease some of the financial hardship endured by the local merchants due to the current terror onslaught.

"Growing" New Teachers: Orot Israel College’s Teacher Induction Program

Racheli Bartuv 
Teacher Induction Program Coordinator, Elkana Campus

What happens at the end of one’s senior year? How does one register with the Education Ministry? How does one find a teaching job? How does one get tenure? What should one do if one’s paycheck hasn’t arrived? Who supports new teachers?

Recent years have seen a worrisome increase in Israel’s dropout rates for teachers within the first five years of their careers. Students who are mentored at the start of their teaching careers are supported and guided as they begin teaching, develop professional identities, and learn to deal with conflicts. Thus, many colleges and universities now offer teacher induction programs.

Orot Israel College’s teacher induction program involves student mentoring and professional development and accompanies the student from graduation until retirement… Staff members include the program’s coordinators (Mr. Natan Fried in Rechovot and Mrs. Racheli Bartuv in Elkana), internship coordinators (Dr. Zev Kaim in Rechovot and Mrs. Dorit Deutsch in Elkana), course coordinator (Mrs. Sarah Eliash), and a team of workshop and course instructors.

On 12 Kislev 5776, we had the honor of welcoming Dr. Sara Zilbershtrom, director of the Education Ministry’s teacher induction department, who visited Orot together with two of her colleagues: Dr. Dalia Immanuel and Dr. Tzvia Shimoni. Participants at the festive gathering included Rav Professor Neria Guttel, Orot Israel College’s president; Rav Dr. Moshe Rachimi and Rav Dr. Yechiel Lash, the academic deans; and the staff and coordinators of Orot’s teacher induction program.

Dr. Zilbershtrom presented her department’s objectives for the 5776 school year:
1. Placement: Preparing for the in-service training year, coordinating with human resources and the
    school districts, and job placement via a dedicated website used by principals and superintendents.
2. Absorption: Following up on the trainees and new teachers’ orientation, partnering with the
    schools and the mentors, and strengthening the relationship between those in the field and the
3. Assessment: Overseeing the assessment of trainees and new teachers on the path to tenure.
4. Recognition: Organizing competitions for the schools and the trainees. (This year, four trainees
    from Orot Israel College’s Rechovot campus came in first in these competitions.)
5. Resources and technology: The department encourages faculty members and trainees to use Bar
    Ilan University’s educational simulation center, where they learn effective ways of dealing with
    professional difficulties and challenges.
6. Research and development: Satisfaction surveys and quality control for the mentoring process;
    conducting studies of the induction program’s activities.

At the end of the visit, Dr. Zilbershtrom said that she had enjoyed meeting the induction program’s staff from both Orot campuses and that she was very impressed with their dedication and commitment to the students. She also expressed her best wishes for the teacher induction program’s continued growth and success.

To Be Or Not To Be… A School Principal

Dr. Hodaya Hoffman
Educational Administration and Organization Department, Orot Israel College

More than a century ago, theoreticians were asked if management is a “profession” and if it requires schooling. At Orot Israel College, it’s no longer a question; it’s an established and welcome fact. Our educational administration and organization department offers a master’s degree program, whose graduates go on to serve as school principals throughout the country.
The program was founded in 5771, and today boasts over 250 current students. In fact, Orot Israel College has more educational administration and organization students than any other religious college in the entire country. The faculty includes leading experts in the field. On a personal level, I have had the privilege of being affiliated with the program for the past six years, and I am struck by how it has grown and developed – both in terms of quantity and quality – over the years. It is truly meaningful to play a role in training a new generation of school principals, who represent the most important link in the education system.
Orot’s program, which received temporary approval from the Higher Education Council, is now in the final stage before receiving full accreditation. The program’s goal is to train students to serve as school principals or in other administrative capacities, such as department coordinators, vice principals, and so on. During the course of their studies, the students acquire relevant skills, including decision making, team leadership, human resources administration, administering budgets, and establishing educational policies. The courses are based on the latest research and theories and are all recognized and approved by the Education Ministry. We believe that management in general (and school administration in particular) is an art that must be studied and developed. Our program’s reputation precedes it, and students come from all across the country: from Tzfat, the Beit She’an Valley, central Israel, the Shfela, the Shomron, and Ashkelon.
The curriculum consists of traditional courses, online courses, workshops, various trips, and a final research project. Courses include decision making, administrative skills, educational economics, initiating change, educational leadership, the Israeli educational system, human resource administration, educational ethics, team leadership, and more. Students visit schools and meet with principals, faculty members, and pupils. Typically, the visits revolve around a specific theme – i.e. pedagogic innovations or school climate. After studying the topic on a theoretical level, the Orot students get a chance to see it implemented on a practical level. Each trip is organized by the educational trip coordinators (Dr. Chaim Shaked and myself), and we thank the schools for opening their doors to us, giving us some of their valuable time, and strengthening the bond between the academic world and the field. It is a two-year program – including a summer semester following the first year. Classes are separate for men and women and held on Mondays. Graduates are awarded master’s degrees and can submit their candidacies for school principal positions after completing the Avnei Roshah Institute’s principal course.
If you’ve ever dreamed of becoming a school principal, Orot Israel College is the place for you! We’re waiting for you!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Perfection: Thoughts on the Yamim Noraim

Way back when I was in the rabbinate, someone emailed me the description of the perfect rabbi:
The results of a computerized survey indicate the perfect Rabbi preaches exactly fifteen minutes. He condemns sins but never upsets anyone. He works from 8:00 AM until midnight and is also a janitor. He makes $50 a week, wears good clothes, buys good books, drives a good car, and gives about $50 weekly to the poor. He is 28 years old and has preached 30 years. He has a burning desire to work with teenagers and spends all of his time with senior citizens. The perfect Rabbi smiles all the time with a straight face because he has a sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to his work. He makes 15 calls daily on congregation families, shut-ins and the hospitalized, and is always in his office when needed.
You get the point: there's no such thing as a perfect rabbi, as much as there is a perfect teacher, lawyer, doctor or mother. Yet, ever since the first blast of the Shofar in shul last week, I've been thinking about perfectionism and the delicate balance between the dangers of perfectionism on one hand, and our concurrent need to strive for perfection.

Being a perfectionist can be extremely destructive. A perfectionist by definition is never happy. Because achieving perfection is literally impossible, one's work is never really good enough. Actually, it's never really good at all. And since it's not going to be "good" (i.e. perfect), often the perfectionist won't even bother starting a project or endeavor at all. After all, what's the point of working on something that you know will fail?

And yet, for all the dangers of perfectionism, that seems to be precisely the demand that Judaism places upon us during the Yamim Noraim. Rambam writes,

ומה היא התשובה--הוא שיעזוב החוטא חטאו, ויסירנו ממחשבתו ויגמור בליבו שלא יעשהו עוד, שנאמר "יעזוב רשע דרכו, ואיש אוון מחשבותיו" (ישעיהו נה,ז).  וכן יתנחם על שעבר, שנאמר "כי אחרי שובי, ניחמתי, ואחרי היוודעי, ספקתי על ירך" (ירמיהו לא,יח); ויעיד עליו יודע תעלומות שלא ישוב לזה החטא לעולם, שנאמר "ולא נאמר עוד אלוהינו, למעשה ידינו--אשר בך, ירוחם יתום" (הושע יד,ד).  וצריך להתוודות בשפתיו, ולומר עניינות אלו שגמר בליבו.  - הלכות תשובה ב', ג
What constitutes Teshuvah? That a sinner should abandon his sins and remove them from his thoughts, resolving in his heart, never to commit them again as [Isaiah 55:7] states "May the wicked abandon his ways...." Similarly, he must regret the past as [Jeremiah 31:18] states: "After I returned, I regretted." He must reach the level where] He who knows the hidden will testify concerning him that he will never return to this sin again as [Hoshea 14:4] states: "We will no longer say to the work of our hands: `You are our gods.'" He must verbally confess and state these matters which he resolved in his heart.
Each year, as I review these important halachot, I stop on that line from Rambam: He must reach the level where] He who knows the hidden will testify concerning him that he will never return to this sin again. Really? Never again? Can I really testify before God that I'll never revert to my past sins; that I'll never slip up? That I won't fall prey to my evil inclination, and commit a sin from my past?
Is not the obligation to "never return to this sin again" a demand for perfection? Never doesn't mean "try not to" or "promises not to" – it means never. Ever. Perfection.

Like many questions, I'm not sure that there's one good answer to this question. This year, I have come to understand that Rambam's formulation demanding a commitment to perfection represents a core aspect of Yamim Noraim that we, as imperfect beings, must confront at least once a year.

On Yom Kippur, the spiritual high point of the year, we emulate the angels. For one day, we eschew our physical selves; our hunger, sexuality, work and leisure, and spend this one day basking in the glory of God. We are, as much as we can possibly be, spiritual. At the same time, we recognize that this yearning is impossible.
That, in a nutshell, is the human condition: the desire for perfection, combined with the knowledge that it is something we will never achieve. During the rest of the year, we take refuge in our humanity, excusing our mistakes and shortcomings. But for one day, we expect perfection of ourselves, and that expectation propels us to improve, repent, return and transform ourselves into better, more perfect people.

There's a famous custom mentioned by the Rema (Orech Chayyim 583:2):
יש המדקדקים שלא לאכול אגוזים שאגוז בגימטריא חטא
There are those who are meticulous not to eat nuts [on Rosh Hashanah] for the gematria (numerical equivalent) of (the Hebrew word) "egoz" (nut) equals "cheit" (sin).
There's only one problem with this custom – or at least the explanation for it: the math is off. The words are not equal. Egoz (אגוז) is 1+3+6+7=17. Cheit (חטא) is 8+9+1=18. They're not even equal to each other!

Maybe that's precisely the point. Sin represents the definition of imperfection. Through our shortcomings, we demonstrate just how incomplete we truly are. In this simple custom, we refrain from eating nuts, to remind us of this exact point – that we are not perfect, and have much to strive for during the Ten Days leading up to Yom Kippur.

Monday, July 27, 2015

“To Raise the Flag” – Book Launch for Rav Ari Shvat’s New Book

Orot Israel College – in conjunction with Beit Harav Kook and the Institute for Zionist Strategies – organized a book launch for Orot lecturer Rav Ari Shvat’s new book, “To Raise the Flag: The Israeli Flag and the Hebrew Language in Jewish Sources.” About one hundred participants – including Orot faculty and alumni - filled Yeshivat Merkaz Harav’s original beit midrash.
During the course of his speech, Rav Professor Neria Guttel, Orot’s president, asked, “was Rav Kook zt”l a Zionist?” and examined Rav Kook’s nuanced approach to the issue. Rav Yochanan Fried, Beit Harav’s chairman, spoke about the Israeli flag, and Mr. Yisrael Harel, founding chairman of the Yesha Council, talked about Zionism and post-Zionism. Rav Shvat focused on Rav Kook’s essay entitled, “The Importance of Israel’s Flag,” which he found in Beit Harav’s archives, and discussed the eleven different points that Rav Kook zt”l raised.

Orot Israel College Students Visit Zichron Yaakov

by Luzit Odesser
Early Childhood Education Department

Students from Orot Israel College’s early education department had the privilege of visiting Zichron Yaakov and its environs. The magical trip served a dual purpose: It gave us a chance to bond while learning in a manner that will help our future students. Our first stop was Zichron’s cemetery and original street, where our talented guide told us about the first settlers in what was then a moshava (agricultural settlement), the difficulties and challenges they overcame, and the moshava’s early years. Outside the synagogue, we heard about Baron Rothschild and all that he did for Zichron and its inhabitants. We discussed the complex situation whereby the Baron’s contributions enabled the moshava to exist and develop, but his clerks made the farmers’ lives miserable. Next, we proceeded on to Ramat Hanadiv.
When we were planning our trip, the Ramat Hanadiv staff suggested that we sign up for an activity in their educational garden. Initially, we turned down the offer, because we thought it would not be appropriate for shmitah. However, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that the Ramat Hanadiv gardens observe shmitah! Thus, we decided to book a tour that was geared for the early childhood years and that focused on observing shmitah in gardens and preschools. According to Ramat Hanadiv’s website:
“The Talmudic sages construed [the relevant psukim from Vayikra 25] to mean that during the Sabbatical Year, the Jewish people should refrain from planting. The prohibition against pruning vineyards was extended to include all activities that might significantly improve or spur the growth of plants; pruning and other maintenance jobs were permitted only if they were deemed absolutely necessary to keep plants alive. All this was geared towards a single purpose: to give the land a rest, an opportunity to renew and strengthen itself, so that it would yield new fruits for the six years following Shmitta. At Ramat Hanadiv, we are marking the Sabbatical Year in its agricultural sense as well as in social and environmental terms.”
And in fact, when we arrived at the beautiful and well-maintained Ramat Hanadiv gardens, we noticed many signs of shmitah-observance. Instead of the usual beds of seasonal flowers at the entrance to the memorial garden, we were greeted by thousands (!!) of lovely, colorful, and unique clay flowers, which were assembled by senior citizens across the country. And as we strolled along the garden’s paths, we saw that the topiaries had not been pruned. Even in the aroma garden geared for the visually impaired – the strong scent of the herbs growing in the garden invites the visitor to pick them, to rub them between one’s fingertips, to recite the “borei issvei besamim” blessing, and to fill one’s lungs with their fragrance – we observed further evidence of shmitah-observance: Some of the flowerbeds were empty, and small signs with the missing herbs’ names were the only indication of their absence. Another sign referred to the Baron’s connection to shmitah and sparked a discussion about the so-called Shmitah Dispute of 1889.
Ramat Hanadiv also comprises additional gardens, such as a therapeutic garden, a sustainability garden, and more. In a garden filled with butterflies, we learned about the concept of “ecological footprint” and saw an extremely giving tree. We also talked about gardening with preschool children in general and during shmitah in particular.
The Orot Israel College students said that they had a wonderful time, and we all look forward to implementing the many ideas we learned during the course of our visit to Zichron.

Orot Israel College Hosts Educational Administration Conference

Dr. Chaim Shaked – Conference Chair and Professor, Educational Administration and Organization Department

Orot Israel College was privileged to host Israel’s annual educational administration conference. Educational administration is a discipline that examines educational leadership, educational policy, implementing changes in the educational system, and more. Every Israeli academic institution that has an educational administration department participates in the prestigious conference, and this year’s event was titled “Academic Leadership in an Era of Change: Research and Practice.”
The participants included researchers who came to present their findings; college presidents and department heads, who came to learn about the latest research; university and college professors and students; and many additional guests. For many of the attendees, this was their first visit to Orot’s Elkana campus, and some of them noted that they rarely travel “over the Green Line.”
Rav Professor Neria Guttel, Orot’s president, welcomed the participants and spoke about two leaders from that week’s parsha: Moshe Rabbeinu and Bilaam HaRasha. The first two speakers were Professor Jonathan Halevy, director-general of Shaare Zedek Medical Center, who compared leadership in the medical field and leadership in the educational field, and former Education Ministry director Mrs. Dalit Shtauber, who defined the current objectives of the educational system and its leadership.
Next, the participants broke up into eight parallel sessions, where a total of thirty-eight studies in the field of educational administration were presented. The studies, which deal with various issues of current concern to the educational system and its leadership – such as reforms, technology, training educational leaders, and more – were presented by fifty-nine researchers representing fourteen different academic institutions. The diverse group of researchers – men and women, young and old, Jews and Arabs, from Israel and from around the world – provided a wide range of perspectives and experiences.
The closing session involved an experiential and artistic approach to educational leadership. All the conference attendees participated in a unique “playback” form of improvisational theater, which focused on educational leadership. Afterwards, the conference’s organizers thanked Orot Israel College and its staff for all their hard work in ensuring the conference’s success. The conference earned rave reviews from all the participants, who were very impressed with both the academic level and the logistical organization.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Rabbanit Shulamit Melamed, Arutz Sheva’s Founder and Director, Visits Orot Israel College

Rabbanit Dr. Nomi Shachor 
Head of the Tanach Department, Orot Israel College, Elkana Campus
Rabbanit Shulamit Melamed, founder and director of the Arutz Sheva news network and wife of Rosh Yeshivat Beit El, Rav Zalman Melamed, delivered a guest lecture at Orot Israel College to mark the conclusion of Orot’s “Jewish Women in the Modern Era” course.
Offered by the history department, the course focused on the various crossroads that the Jewish people in general and Jewish women in particular faced during the modern era. The students examined the personal, ideological, and spiritual questions that concerned women in different settings: the Haskalah in Europe, the assorted waves of Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael, the 1960s and the growth of feminism in the United States, and women’s roles in the State of Israel. Special attention was given to religious women in Israel – both within the feminist movements and within other movements, such as Gush Emunim and the settlement of Yehuda and Shomron.
During her lecture, Rabbanit Melamed discussed the many transformations that religious women have undergone over the past few decades. She spoke about the home where she was raised, her introduction to the yeshiva world, and her decision to marry a yeshiva student connected to Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav – which was considered to be fairly unusual at the time. Being the wife of a full-time yeshiva student, she said, had several implications and impacted the household division of labor. The next significant move in her life – which also was a reflection of changes in the national-religious public – was the decision to establish the community of Beit El B. The Orot students were enthralled by her stories of the community’s early years – including the technical and security problems and the challenges and difficulties of raising a family far from Yerushalayim.
Rabbanit Melamed also spoke about founding Arutz Sheva. She recalled purchasing a ship and broadcasting from sea as well as her initial exposure to the media. The Orot students were particularly interested in hearing about the various financial, technical, and fundamental issues that she faced. Although the network itself and the media in general have since undergone many changes, Rabbanit Melamed continues to serve as Arutz Sheva’s director.
In addition, she examined the status of Jewish women in general and Israeli women in particular. Inter alia, she touched upon feminism, a woman’s role in the family, women’s contributions to Israeli society and family life, and more. The students were encouraged to ask questions, and the lecture sparked an animated discussion about how society’s approach to marriage has changed over the generations.
Orot Israel College thanks Rabbanit Melamed for her intriguing talk, which not only addressed many of the issues our students will face as Jewish, Israeli, and religious women, wives, and mothers but also introduced them to a fascinating woman who continues to shape Israeli society.

Orot Israel College and Torah MiTzion: A Natural Partnership

How many Jews lived in Munich before the Holocaust? How many Jews live there today? How many of them keep (strictly) kosher homes? Before answering these questions, we should explain that these are just some of the issues facing the members of the Munich Torah MiTzion Kollel.
Torah MiTzion is an organization dedicated to disseminating Judaism in the Diaspora: in Munich and Moscow; in Washington, D.C., South Africa, and Australia. Each place according to its specific character and needs, but one thing unites them all: Jewish education. Whether it is classes or study partners, small get-togethers or large events – both educational and “social” – various means are used to achieve the sacred goal.
Several years ago, Torah MiTzion asked Orot Israel College, Israel’s largest and most prestigious religious educational college, to work together on several projects. For example, Orot runs a special training class for Orot students who wish to join – on a short-term basis – one of Torah MiTzion’s kollels around the world.
Recently, Torah MiTzion’s leadership invited Rav Professor Neria Guttel, Orot’s president, on a quick, intensive, and jam-packed visit to the Munich Kollel. Rosh Kollel Rav Eliezer Noy and his wife graciously hosted Rav Guttel during his two-day stay, and the rest of the Kollel’s membership went out of their way to show Rav Guttel around.
Much of the Kollel’s programming is geared for university students. After all, Munich’s Jewish community is largely composed of Jews from the former Soviet Union as well as Israeli “yordim” and young Israelis studying in the local universities. Unfortunately, most of them have little to no connection to Torah and mitzvot, and it is not easy to “get through” to them.
Thus, Rav Guttel attended a “fondue party” that included the culinary treat as well as a game focusing on the laws and customs of Sefirat HaOmer. He also interviewed an engaged couple who credit Torah MiTzion with bringing them closer to Judaism and now hope to make aliyah to Israel, and he met the principal of the Jewish day school (which now goes up to the fourth grade), a Jewish studies teacher in the local high school, the local rabbi’s two deputies, the principals of the Jewish Agency-supported Janusz Korczak Academy, and many others. One of the highlights of Rav Guttel’s visit was his meeting with the president of the Jewish community, who is considered to be one of the most influential women in German politics. Due to her busy schedule, the meeting was almost cancelled, but in the end, it took place and was very cordial.
To get back to our original questions: Approximately 11,000 Jews lived in Munich before the Holocaust, and as a result of the German government’s ongoing efforts “to return the crown to its former glory” (??), some 9,000 Jews currently live in Munich (without getting into the question of “who is a Jew?”). However, there are only a few dozen families who maintain (strictly) kosher homes!
This, then, is the challenge – in a nutshell – facing the Torah MiTzion Kollel: “To bring back the hearts of the sons.” Needless to say, it is not easy, and the work depends on much dedication, faith, and hope.
As always, Orot Israel College is proud to be a part of this wonderful endeavor, and with Hashem’s help, we will accomplish and succeed!

Orot Israel College Students Submit Award-Winning Research Papers

Rav Dr. Moshe Rachimi 
Dean of Students (Elkana Campus) and Head of Orot Israel College’s Graduate School 

During their second year, students at Orot Israel College write research papers on Judaic studies topics. The process begins with learning how to write an academic paper and ends with a proper, high-caliber thesis.
Orot, which places great emphasis on academic excellence (as well as Judaic, educational, and pedagogical excellence), encourages and promotes student research – including for undergraduate students. To this end, every year, the top three papers – as determined by three stages of judging - receive awards for excellence. The results of this process are twofold. First, students are motivated to work even harder, and second, the resulting papers are extremely impressive.
This year, the faculty advisors recommended that twelve different papers be submitted to the judges, who eventually selected the three best theses:
• First place: Oriah (Dahan) Reshef - “Children in Monasteries During the Holocaust” - Rav Ari Shvat, Advisor
• Second place: Atara Shlomovitz – “His Eyes Shed Tears: R’ Elazar ben Hurkanus” – Dr. Uriel Twito, Advisor
• Third place: Mazal (Ingeda) Cohen – “The Laws of Kashrut According To Beita Yisrael In Comparison To the Laws of Kashrut According To the Shulchan Aruch” - Rav Ari Shvat, Advisor
Orot Israel College’s administration and faculty congratulate all the submissions and especially the prize winners. We are thrilled and proud of their achievements and encourage them to continue along the path of academia and research.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Technology and Education: Challenges and Opportunities

by Rabbi Reuven Spolter
Jewish Studies Lecturer

I’ve been struggling with the issue of cellphones in my classes at Orot.
Last semester, Orot Israel College invited a speaker who spoke to the entire student body about our collective addiction to cellphones. Even more impressive than the truly frightening statistics and stories he told was the total command he had over an auditorium of 450 students, and his absolute refusal to allow anyone in the room to take out a cellphone. If someone took one out, he stopped his talk, and waited until the person put the phone away.
I was blown away, and convinced that I needed to do the same thing in my classes. When the new second semester began, I started each class by asking the students to put away their phones in their bags, telling them two things: First of all, their staring at their phones served as a distraction for me (which it really is – try talking to someone who’s staring at their phone). Second, I told them that, “If you’re there (on the phone) you’re not here." You cannot be on the phone and focusing on the class.
The students reluctantly acquiesced, and put away their phones, at first. For a while, I really stuck to it, and I must say that educationally, it was productive. The students were certainly annoyed, but the classes were better – more productive and focused.
But, as the semester has progressed, I have backed off – not because I don’t think that the cellphones are a distraction, but because I simply don’t have the energy to fight with my students anymore. I had hoped that the students entering my classes would, after a certain point, remember that I asked them not to use their phones in class and put them away on their own. Wishful thinking. Before each class I have to remind them – over and over – to please put away the phones until the end of class. And then there’s the laptop issue: a number of students bring laptops, and it’s painfully obvious that they’re not only taking notes. How as a teacher do I distinguish between cellphones and laptops? Why should there be any difference between them?
As part of my work at Orot, I serve as an administrator for the M.Ed. (Masters) program for Educational Administration at Orot’s Rechovot Campus. Students in the program recently participated in a site visit at Amit Amichai High School (for boys) in Rechovot. The Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshivat Amit, Rav Avi Rokeach, explained that three years ago the school made a strategic decision to invest in technology. They recognized that the students’ lives were intimately involved in technology – not just as tools, but in the way that the kids think today. If we were able to translate the materials that they learned – Gemara, Chumash, mathematics, etc – using the technological language of the students today – then they could dramatically improve the educational experience of the school. Every student and teacher received a tablet, and they invested in putting all of their materials on the tablets so that the kids would be ready to learn.
Three months into the project, they recognized that the experiment wasn’t working. Despite the incredible investment in technology, they realized that the tools – the technology – wasn’t the answer. It wasn’t that the tech wasn’t working. It really was. But the investment didn’t really create the change that the school was looking for. It was the same school, the same students, the same learning.
We took a tour of the school and saw a number of classes in which the students were working in groups; they had projects in English, mathematics, science; many of the classes of course have frontal learning. In each class, students were working with each other on laptops and also using their phones. There was a lot of learning taking place, but also a lot of email, Facebook and Whatsapp as well. We asked school staff how the teachers prevent students from using the laptops and phones to play and waste time. The teacher said that he doesn’t make them learn or stop them from playing. Rather, he gives the both the freedom and independence to make the right choice, and not waste their time in class (and have to do the work at home).
Is tech the answer in education? It is definitely not the answer – but it’s certainly part of our students’ lives. How to use that technology, or limit its ability to distract our students represents a challenge that educators struggle with on a constant basis. As technology grows even more integral to our lives, the questions grow more pressing.
Does a school that encourages engagement with technology produce graduates that are substantially different than other schools? Today, it's far too early to answer this critical question, which will have important implications for education long into the future.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Tribute to Rav Ari Shvat (Chwat) upon the launching of his new book:

The Israeli Flag and Speaking Hebrew
Orot Israel College cordially invites all Bat-Zion bogrot to join us on Tueday, the 8th of Sivan (May 26) at 8:00 p.m. at Beit HaRav Kook in Jerusalem, to an evening, co-sponsored by Michlelet Orot Israel, and the Institute for Zionist Strategies, in honor of Rav Ari Shvat.
Rav Shvat , a dedicated teacher of religious-Zionism and Aliya,  taught in the Bat-Zion program for many years and continues to teach in Bnei Akiva and other Israeli programs for close to 3 decades now.
The theme of the evening is “Zionism and Post-Zionism”, and the guest speakers will be:
HaRav Prof. Neria Gutel, Dean of Orot Israel College;
Yisrael Har’el, Founding Director of Yesha Council and recent recipient of the Moskowitz Prize for Zionism for 2015/5775;
Rav  Ari Shvat, author of “Raising the Flag”, the first book dedicated to “The Importance of Zionist Symbols in a World Transforming to Universalism”.
This will be a great opportunity to see many former Bat Zion Rabbanim and well as bogrot and friends.
We look forward to seeing you at this special event!

Orot Israel College Holds Tribute for Renowned Choreographer and Dancer Mrs. Oshra Elkayam

On Tuesday, 4 Nissan 5775 (March 24, 2015), Orot Israel College hosted a tribute to renowned choreographer and dancer Mrs. Oshra Elkayam at our Elkana campus. An Orot dance and movement instructor, Mrs. Elkayam was recently awarded the Ministry of Culture’s prestigious Arik Einstein Prize for her contributions to Israeli culture at a gala ceremony held at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.
The tribute began with a greeting from Orot’s President Rav Professor Neria Guttel. Next, the audience was treated to a video presentation, which included short clips and photographs from some of the dances Mrs. Elkayam choreographed for the Batsheva Dance Company, the Kibbutz Dance Company, the Inbal Dance Company, and others. Mrs. Tziona Shabtai, an Orot alumnus who wrote her thesis about Mrs. Elkayam, shared several excerpts from Mrs. Elkayam’s notes about her work “I Walked Then.”
Oshra Elkayam studied under the tutelage of Martha Graham, who was known as “the high priestess of dance,” in New York and then attended the elite Juilliard School during the early 1960s. After returning to Israel, she began choreographing for all of the major dance companies, and her professional achievements are considered to be a significant milestone in the history of Israeli dance.
In honor of the tribute, Many Orot alumni, students, and faculty members wrote heartfelt letters to express their appreciation. For instance, one student wrote:
“Besides the professional knowledge, you taught us about humanity, creativity, and a love for dance and everything that surrounds us.”
Another student added:
“At various occasions, we heard people talk about you, and little by little, we realized that we are privileged to study under one of the dance world’s most respected and major figures. But with your typical modesty, you tried to keep this information from us.”
Orot Israel College extends our best wishes to Oshra and wishes her many more years of creativity and contribution to Israeli culture.

Orot Israel College Hosts Paamonim Financial Management Workshop

by Rabbanit Dr. Leah Vizel 
Dean of Students and Extramural Studies, Orot Israel College

Recently, Orot Israel College, in conjunction with the Paamonim organization, hosted another workshop on healthy financial management. The workshop was a natural extension of Orot’s belief that training future teachers includes enriching our students’ world in various contexts as well as demonstrating concern for their welfare.
Here at Orot, we believe that an educator’s role involves more than simply transmitting knowledge, and throughout our students’ training, we bring this ideal to life. Thus, Orot students and their husbands, who live in the married student housing on our Elkana campus, participated in a series of constructive and enjoyable sessions during the evening hours. Due to the large demand, we offered two parallel workshops, which were given by Paamonim’s Mr. Moti Gilboa and Mr. Shai Davidovich respectively. During the course of the sessions, the young couples were given practical tools for effective financial planning: an introduction to basic financial terms; an explanation of retirement and other social benefits in the workplace and their long-term significance; the significance of interest in reference to loans and investments; building a healthy attitude toward money; and much more. Geared specifically for couples at the same stage in their lives, facing similar financial challenges, the workshop even included a discussion of the participants’ own experiences.
The grateful couples sent the following note after completing the workshop: “We want to thank you for organizing the Paamonim workshop. This workshop is essential for everyone and especially critical and relevant for young couples. In addition, the statistics we were shown during the workshop indicate that 60% of the country’s citizens are in debt. Therefore, we feel that you ‘provided the cure ahead of the potential future malady,’ for at least some of the couples.”
Orot Israel College is proud to provide our students with the essential tools for managing their families’ finances.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Amazing Blessing of Israeli Elections

Harav Moshe Yekutiel Alpert
by Rabbi Reuven Spolter
Jewish Studies Lecturer

Many Israelis can’t wait for the elections – which take place tomorrow – to end. Let’s just put it this way: elections don’t bring out the best in Israeli society. And that’s putting it mildly. Yet, we need to take a broader look at the amazing opportunity (and mitzvah) that we will be privileged to perform tomorrow when we cast our ballots tomorrow. The following story is floating around the internet today, but I feel it worthy of sharing, just in case you haven’t already seen it yet. (The translation of this item is from a blog post by Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein of Cross Currents). Harav Moshe Yekutiel Alpert lived in Jerusalem from 1917 – 1955. Below is his description of the day of the first elections held in the State of Israel.  Reading his diary makes me think of my grandfather – a man who lived in Miami Beach but loved the State of Israel with all of his heart. Today, both his son (and his family) and two grandsons live in the Jewish State, a fact which would, no doubt, bring him great joy. The election season reminds us that while we do indeed have much work to do, we are living in a time of incredible blessing which we cannot allow ourselves to take for granted.
FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 2,000 YEARS THE ELECTIONS FOR ISRAEL’S FIRST KNESSET TOOK PLACE, ON THE 14TH OF TEVETH, 25/1/49: At 5:35 A.M. my wife and I got up early, as did my brother, Reb Shimon Lev, my brother-in-law, Reb Netanel Sleduchin and my son Dov. After we drank a quick cup of coffee we dressed in our Shabbat clothes in honor of this great and holy day for which we recite: “This is the day proclaimed by G-d; let us rejoice and be happy”. After 2,000 years of Exile, actually since the six days of Creation, we have never had an opportunity as today—that we can go and vote in a Jewish State. Blessed be He that He has enabled us to live to see this day. My son, Dov, left the house at 5:45 A.M. and went off wherever he went, because he’s a big supporter of the Herut Party, and he didn’t return all day and all night. My wife and I and my brother and brother-in-law went to the voting station of District 10, in the Hapoel Hamizrachi Building on Habashim Street, holding our State of Israel issued Identity Card in our hands. We walked the short distance from our house to the poll with great joy. We were currently living downstairs from the Dvasha Goldsmidt family in Batei Wittenberg since our house in Beit Yisrael had been hit by a rocket and was being repaired. That’s why we were assigned to vote at this station, rather than the one in Beit Yisrael. All the way to the polling station I felt like on Simchat Torah when we dance with the Torah (during the Hakafot), but instead of a Scroll I held my Israeli Identity Card in my hand. You can’t imagine the happiness and joy I felt. At 5:50 A.M. we came to the Hapoel Hamizrachi building. We were the first ones there. Only the janitor was there, and the light were on. I asked the janitor, “Where are the polling officials? They haven’t arrived yet?” We waited until 5:54 A.M. Two members of the committee arrived. At 6:02 the chairman finally came, Mr. —– a lawyer. I complained that he didn’t come on time because by law the polling station was supposed to be open from 6:00 A.M. The chairman apologized. Then he announced since there was a quorum, the two committee members, an observer from Herut and himself, they could begin to work. The janitor brought the ballot box and the chairman then called me and my brother over to give honor to the elderly and asked us to witness the fact that the box was empty and observe its sealing. This was recorded in the protocol where he wrote, “I, the chairman, arrived at 6:00 A.M. (which isn’t true because we came at 5:50 and he only got there at 6:02), and at 6:23 we opened the proceedings.” The chairman said since I’m the oldest person there I would have the privilege of being the first voter. Quivering with emotion of awe and sanctity I gave the chairman my Identity Card. He read out my name from the I.D. card and the deputy chairman wrote it on the voters list in front of him as number one. He gave me an envelope and I went into the closed off area where all the party letters were placed. With a shaking hand and a feeling of holiness I chose a note marked “Bet”, the United Religious parties’ letter, placed it carefully in the envelope and returned to the polling station. I showed them all that I only had one envelope in my hand, and then, at the moment of greatest exhilaration in my life, a moment that neither my father, nor my grandfather, nor any of my ancestors experienced, (only I had the privilege), I recited the Shechiyanu blessing and carefully placed the envelope in the ballot box. “Blessed am I and blessed is my portion!” I shook the chairman’s hand heartily and the other committee members’ hands too and went out. I waited for my wife, my brother and brother-in-law and at 6:28 we left. I went off to pray and my wife went home. A great holiday indeed!”

Monday, March 9, 2015

Orot Israel College Allocates Residential Hall for Married Students

Nomi Spanglet
Student Affairs Coordinator & Alumni Relations

Lior Sharim, the building’s first married resident
Due to the significant and gratifying increase in enrollment – including many married students - at Orot Israel College’s Elkana campus, the administration needed to find additional housing solutions. A decision was made to reallocate the Cymberknopf Dormitory Wing (which was originally designated for Orot’s single students) for six young married couples.
Orot invested a great deal of resources in the project, which involved major renovations such as adding a kitchen to each of the six apartments and moving several walls. The construction is now completed, and the first couple arrived during Chanukah. B’ezrat Hashem, other couples are set to move into the building over the next few weeks.
Special thanks to Orot’s president, Rav Professor Neria Guttel; Mr. Yaniv David, head of operations; and his entire crew for all their hard work and efforts.

A Trip to the Therapeutic Riding Center of Israel in Tel Mond

Dr. Avia Guttman 
Head of Department, Special Education Department

Recently, the first-year students in Orot Israel College’s special education department (Elkana campus) visited the Therapeutic Riding Center of Israel, a unique therapeutic riding clinic located in Tel Mond. During the course of their visit, the students learned how the state-of-the-art clinic uses horseback riding and works with specially-trained dogs in order to improve their different clients’ physical and motor skills, self-esteem, and self-image.
The clinic boasts a wide range of programs run by experienced and licensed guides. Examples include programs geared for autistic children, children with cerebral palsy, children with special needs, at-risk teens, mentally-disabled adults, students with learning disabilities, traffic accident victims, disabled IDF veterans, recovering drug addicts, the elderly, and many others.
Horseback riding can help stimulate and strengthen various body parts – such as the arms, the legs, the back, the neck, the pelvis, and other muscles that have atrophied due to assorted causes. In addition, horseback riding significantly improves the rider’s self-confidence by allowing him to feel in control. At the Therapeutic Riding Center of Israel, although every client is actually supported by four staff members (mostly volunteers), the client feels that he leads and spurs the horse himself, and thus, he is in control.
Another interesting feature is the clinic’s dog kennel, which is staffed by professional dog trainers, who rely on innovative methods to help their clients. Often, the trainers have been successful in cases where conventional therapies had previously failed. The clients thrive thanks to the warmth, devotion, and unconditional love they receive from the dogs. During our visit, we witnessed a dog’s excitement and happiness when it saw one of the children, and we watched it playfully lick the child’s face and hands.
The Orot Israel College students toured the cutting-edge clinic and its surrounding idyllic open fields. They also enjoyed several instructive lectures delivered by the clinic’s staff members as well as a movie about the Therapeutic Riding Center of Israel. As one of the students noted, “I would really like to get involved and specialize in therapy using animals.”

An Emotional Visit to Talmon

Rav Yona Goodman 
Director, Institute for Contemporary Chinuch with Emunah

Orot Students Meet with Bat-Galim Sha'ar
On a blustery winter evening, students from Orot Israel College’s Institute for Contemporary Chinuch with Emunah, headed by Rav Yona Goodman, traveled to Talmon, where they met Mrs. Bat-Galim Sha’er, mother of Gil-Ad Hy”d.
First, the students toured the “khan” that Talmon’s teenagers built with their own hands this past summer – during the tense search and then the mourning period for the three boys Hy”d and later during Operation Protective Edge. The tour sparked a deep discussion about ways to channel and direct young people’s energies during a stressful, nerve-wracking time.
Next, Rav Rami Brachyahu, Rav of Talmon, spoke to the Orot students about the unique challenges he faced as the Rav of a community dealing with devastating uncertainty and tragedy. He explained why Yair Lapid was chosen to deliver a eulogy at the funeral. (Among other reasons, it was “to show that the desire to forge a connection between opposing sides did not only stem from the terrible days of the search.”) Needless to say, his words led to a broad and meaningful discussion.
Yet, undoubtedly, the trip’s highlight was meeting Bat-Galim and Ofir Sha’er in their home. The couple spoke openly about the difficult period and how they coped, and they talked about Gil-Ad and their vibrant encounter with Am Yisrael at its best. At the end of the emotional visit, the participants discussed the question of what we all can and must learn from the past summer in general and from the incredible spirit of unity that we all witnessed and experienced in particular.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Why We Ask: What Do You Do?

Rabbi Efrem Goldberg recently wrote a thoughtful post entitled "Don’t Confuse Earning a Living with Living", in which he relates a story about an encounter he had with a stranger sitting at a wedding.
At the meal, I found myself sitting at a table of people I had never met.  In an attempt to be friendly to the man seated next to me, I asked him, “What do you do?”  He sat up in his chair, turned to me and said, “What do I do, or how do I earn a living?  I earn a living as a plumber.  What I do, what I am most proud of, is that I learn Torah every morning before davening, and I spend time with my family every evening after work.”  His answer remains etched in my memory as he taught me a profound lesson that day in that short, but poignant answer to my simple social question.
Culturally, at least in the United States, "What do you do?" is the first thing you ask to someone that you don't know. It's an ice-breaker; a way to start a conversation. Tell me about yourself. Yet, after I made aliyah, I noticed that Israelis almost never ask this question. They ask different questions: "Where are you from?" "Where did you serve in the army?" To Anglos (like me), they'll often ask, "You're from America, right?" (It's a game where they try and identify you from your accent. It's not hard.) But they don't usually first ask about your profession. That got me thinking about the differences between cultures and countries, and wondering why people in the States ask about and identify a person through his or her profession. I think, at least subconsciously, "What do you do?" is also a question about money and social status. When you ask, "What do you do?" you're also asking another question: "How much do you earn?" Because if you're a lawyer or a doctor, I can place you in one social sphere. If you're a plumber, you're in another; a teacher or social worker? Yet another. (When they asked me the question and I told them that I was the rabbi of a shul, people would inevitably ask me the obvious follow-up: "Really? How many families?" It's the same question: Are you the rabbi of some small shtiebel, or are you an "imporant" rabbi of a significant community?) We assess people by their earning power, and extend to them social status commensurate to that financial wherewithal. It's sad, but too often true. Think about the shul you attend: how do people relate to the doctors, compared to how they relate to the physical therapists? It's not a question of how many aliyot a person gets, but a question of voice, deference, and communal authority. In Israel, people earn far less money, and doctors and lawyers don't really earn much more than teachers (which is one reason why it's so hard for American doctors to make aliyah). There are very few truly rich people, at least where I live (to the best of my knowledge). I have no clue how much people do or don't earn. This type of subconscious assessment is only natural. The people with greater means do get a greater say. We need them - at least externally - more than we do everyone else. Their donations keep the lights on; they pay for the kiddushim we enjoy, and for the rabbis' salaries as well. We have to give them a voice, especially in the decisions of the institutions that they support. Yet, this unspoken preferential treatment alienates those who don't fit the bill: the teachers, the marketers, the plumbers (although plumbers do fine, from what I hear).
I'm sure that Rabbi Goldberg meant none of this when he asked the plumber "What do you do?" Yet, in some part of his mind, I'm also sure that the plumber heard a different question: "Hello. I don't know you. Are you an important person? Does your profession make you someone I should respect?" To this question, instead of answering, "Actually, I earn a living wage by putting my hands in people's waste all day long," he chose a different path - an understandable one from that point of view. I wonder whether the plumber would have had the same reaction had his chosen profession been to own a chain of plumbers which served six states. Perhaps yes, although I doubt he would have reacted so sharply to the question.
Throughout the school year at Orot, we invite groups of young women serving in Sherut Leumi (National Service) for in-service days (yemei iyyun). Often, I give a seminar called "Finding the 'Me' Among the Masses" (מצאית ה"אני" בתוך ההמונים), in which we speak about balancing the need to actualize our individuality with the needs of the community and the country. I always begin this seminar by doing an exercise called "Why Do You Do What You Do?" (or WDYDWYD), a seminar that's given in business and school settings around the world. I do a little exercise where I ask the students to spend five minutes drawing a picture that explains "Why they do what they do." 
It's harder than you think, because before you can answer the question "why", you first have to ask yourself, "What do I do?" - a question that can be as narrow as "Why am I sitting in this room?" and as broad as "Why am I serving in Sherut Leumi?" It's always an incredible exercise.
Each time I give the seminar, I also draw a picture. During the first years after our Aliyah, I always drew a picture of my family. I interpreted the question to mean, "Why are you giving this seminar in Orot today? Why did you leave the rabbinate and make Aliyah?" The answer, to me, was always for the sake of my family and my children. Yet, each time I drew that picture, it forced me to ask other questions: If I really am doing it all for my kids, why don't I spend more time with them? (This actually prompted me to take a day off from work and take them on a tiyyul.)
Perhaps the question we should ask people when we meet them for the first time isn't "What do you do?", but instead, "Why do you do what you do?" 
That question would lead to a much more fruitful and interesting conversation.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Orot Students Enjoy Intensive Practical Field Work Week

Racheli Bartuv
Field Work Coordinator, Elkana Campus

Orot Israel College considers practical field work to be an intrinsic part of the curriculum. Thus, our students recently spent an intensive week applying much of the theoretical knowledge they had acquired in the classroom and discovering how the educational system functions in the real world.
Inter alia, they were given a firsthand look at many of the educational challenges and projects that face teachers and educators in the school system. The Orot students observed lessons, participated in peer discussion groups, and even ran various activities in different schools about midot, the plants and animals of northern Israel, Chanukah, and other topics. In addition, some Orot students participated in various workshops organized by the Pedagogic Center, including: combining film clips and graphic elements into a single presentation; assorted ways to begin a lesson; decorating the classroom setting; and preparing a dynamic learning center about shmitah.
During the course of the week, many of Orot’s individual departments also organized trips and outings for their students. For instance, the school guidance and the social-communal education departments visited the Retorno Rehabilitation Center; the Toshb”a department toured the Rambam Library; the communication and mathematics departments visited the Amit Amichai School in Rechovot; and the early childhood education department explored Petach Tikva’s unique Gan HaSfarim. Coincidentally, the education minister happened to be visiting a certain school that same week, and the Orot students enjoyed watching how the excited faculty and students prepared for his visit.

Orot Students Attend “The Wave”

by Dr. Vitela Arzi 
Head, English Department, Orot Israel College

Ideally, when studying a foreign language, one should also be exposed to authentic culture – specifically, art and literature - in that language. Thus, students in Orot Israel College’s English department not only study English poetry, literature, and drama, but when the rare opportunity presents itself, they also get to experience original English-language theater in Israel.
For instance, during the month of MarCheshvan, ADGE, an acclaimed British-American professional theater group largely known for its Shakespearean productions, brought its adaptation of Todd Strasser’s “The Wave” to Israel. Based on a real-life incident, “The Wave” is set in California in the 1960s and tells the story of a high school history teacher who conducts a shocking experiment to teach his class about the rise of Nazism. The teacher tries to show his students that even “enlightened” American teenagers can easily succumb to the lure of a fascist ideology.
ADGE has appeared in countries around the world. Its goal is to introduce classic drama to young English students in order to improve their English language skills.
Orot Israel College’s administration supports and encourages extracurricular cultural enrichment activities. Thanks to the academic dean, Rav Dr. Moshe Rachimi, Orot funded the tickets and provided transportation to the play, and a large group of first- through third-year students took advantage of the offer and traveled to the theater in Kfar Saba. The outing proved to be a huge success.
First-year Orot student Aviva Balta said, “I really enjoyed the play. I’m glad you thought of it. This was also a wonderful way to improve our English, and as you always say, ‘language is also culture.’ And I think we were privileged to learn about a culture that is different from ours in a creative way. It’s possible, of course, to learn from books, but the play simply brought it all to life. It was amazing! In the play, we were able to see English-speakers’ mentality and what is emphasized in their culture (like football, etc.). The play was on a high level, and the actors weren’t indifferent to the audience. They included us, and we basically played a part in the show. I think this experience is very important for English students, and for me personally, it even inspired me to work harder at my studies.”
Kinneret Shteinmetz, a teacher taking courses at Orot, touched upon the play’s connection to recent events. “This week, we had the rare opportunity of seeing a quality play in English,” she noted. “The play focused on an attempt at understanding how humans can lose their critical and independent thinking and act as a mob – as exemplified by the Nazi party during World War II.
“We saw the play several hours after the deadly terror attack in the shul in Har Nof, where four Jews were murdered while still wrapped in their talitot. It is impossible not to be aware - these days, in light of the difficult images – of the parallels to World War II. Now, once again but with even greater intensity, the question that was brilliantly and professionally presented on the stage arises: How incitement and brainwashing can be dangerous and can lead people to hateful acts that they would not have done otherwise.”
Like other extracurricular cultural activities, theater is a manifestation of the holistic approach to the educational experience in general and to studying a foreign language in particular that is endorsed and espoused by Orot Israel College and its English department.

Fastforward 23 years....Orot Bat Zion 5753 Reunites in Modi'in

Judy (Beigel) Silkoff – BZ 5753/1992-3
A google search of the word ‘reunion’ brings up three official definitions; the first two refer to a gathering of old school friends, and the third to unification of a country. But it is that third definition, “the action of being brought together again as a unified whole”, that seemed to most aptly describe the Orot reunion my Bat Zion programme organised in Modi'in in January.
The idea for the reunion came about as a direct result of the get-together organized by Nomi Spanglet in Elkana last year. Green with envy that I couldn't make the trip from London to join everyone in what we used to fondly refer to as the ‘yellow michlala’, my dear friend and Orot roomie Jacqueline promised me that she would sort one out for me next time I was in Israel. And she didn't disappoint!
Thanks to the help of Nomi and of course, Facebook, it wasn't too difficult to track down everyone in our year (1992-3/5753). Turns out that out of a group of 51 girls, close to 30 are now living in Israel! And 18 of them (plus Nomi, myself, and Amy who was visiting from Toronto) gathered in Jacqueline's beautiful home on January 6th to catch up, reconnect, share photos and rekindle memories of some of the best times of our lives. The years seemed to melt away and there was so much noise, laughter, happy tears and emotion in the room. 23 years ago we came to Orot as a group of strangers but over the ensuing months we bonded in only the way Orot girls could! We may all be living very different lives now, but the strong beliefs and feelings that connected us then still hold us together – and although we didn't quite get to breaking out into song, I could definitely hear the faint strains of all those chug Shira sessions echoing in the background!