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.