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.