Thursday, June 2, 2016

Tasfeh Students Enjoy Enrichment Seminar

Rabbi Dr. Yohanan Kapah,
Dean of Students, Rechovot Campus

This year, Orot Israel has joined other colleges which conduct a Tasfeh program. This program, whose name comes from the Amharic word for “hope,” caters to the Ethiopian community in Israel. In the context of this program, the students participate in enrichment activities in a variety of disciplines.
Recently, we conducted a very full day seminar in the city of Kiryat Gat. We met with Ms. Shulamit Sahalu, a religious woman and member of the Ethiopian community, who currently serves as Deputy Mayor of Kiryat Gat. Over the course of a lengthy conversation, she spoke about the power of meaningful achievement within a municipal system, armed with limited resources beyond personal drive. Ms. Sahalu noted the extraordinary progress the city is currently enjoying, in its transition from a development town, suffering from an unflattering public image, to a city undergoing accelerated development. We saw these changes firsthand, when the City Spokesperson escorted us on a tour of various sites around the city. The tour highlighted the centers of technological development and demonstrated the importance of the earliest possible recognition for future potential.
From there, we visited the Atachlit Farm, a village of “Beta Yisrael” (the adopted name of the Jewish Ethiopian community in Israel), where we were exposed to the cultural richness of the Ethiopian community. At the village, the students were addressed by Rabbi Moshe Solomon, who is an active member of the Ethiopian community; the Director of the organization Hineni, which provides a range of social services within the community; and a lieutenant colonel in the Reserves. Finally, we went to the Tenufa youth center, where we held a fascinating conversation about all the days’ experiences. The day concluded with a conversation with the municipal psychologist, whose responsibilities bring him into contact with the various segments of the Kiryat Gat community.
Students participating in the Tasfeh program represent all the assorted specializations and programs offered in the College: general students, yeshiva students, and students receiving academic retraining. A large portion of these students combine their studies in the College with parallel rabbinic studies. The seminar was arranged with the aim to contribute towards the development of these students as community leaders and educators, and it was clear from the uplifting and positive atmosphere that the seminar had achieved its purpose.

At Orot, We Train Creators

Dr. Zeev Kaim,
Internship Program Coordinator, Rechovot Campus
The conference held in recognition of this year’s new teachers and interns reflected the substantial creative achievement of the interns from Orot College who won a national competition. Their creative works open windows not only into the worlds of their values, but also to the complexity of the task facing those charged with educating the children of Israel. How fortunate we are that these are our alumni!
One of the most welcome initiatives introduced by the Department of Internships within the Ministry of Education in the last several years has been the national competition for creative works related to education, written by teaching interns. The idea behind the competition is to bring out the inner voice of the young teachers and to reflect their vantage points as they begin their paths as educators, through their assorted creative pieces. In this way, the wider public also gains a peek into what happens behind the closed door of the classroom, and to understand, at least partially, the complexity of the new teacher’s world.
In their first year in teaching, teaching interns experience crises and successes, they are faced with educational dilemmas, and they must sustain themselves amidst tensions and adjustments. These interns are involved in numerous events and incidents, they are exposed to complex pedagogical processes, and they are called upon for significant educational decisions. Practically speaking, the life of an intern may be compared to the constantly-changing waves of the sea; one moment, you are riding the wave, and the next moment, the wave slaps you in the face. These interns come to teaching out of a sense of a calling, wishing to contribute to the shaping of the face of the young generation - and the way in which they will experience their first year will shape their educational points of view, as well as their perceptions of their roles.
The national competition was conducted among roughly 7000 new school and early childhood teachers. The interns compete in three categories of expressive works related to the theme of teaching: stories, posters, and videos. Hundreds of outstanding creative works were presented anonymously to the judges. This collection of creative works was meticulously evaluated by teams of judges which included educators and experts from the fields of literature, visual arts, and film.
When the names of the winners were announced, it turned out that, as we have come to expect, Orot Israel was among the schools with the most winners. Two alumni of the College were cited as first-place finishers and another was designated a third-place winner in the category of literary works. Our alumni were also cited for distinction in the categories of education-themed posters and videos.
Among our winning alumni, we met Elad Yehudai, whose story “Remove Your Shoes from upon Your Feet” addresses the role of the educator as a leader. The story explores the tension between the educator’s desire to serve his students as a figure of certain authority and a role model, and his desire to be close to the students and to establish an emotional connection with them. The story of another winner, Shmuel Hayyun, “An Aliya Experience,” relates to the experience of the author’s father, a Moroccan immigrant whose aliya and absorption to Israel was mired with the hardships of the transfer camp-era, and to the extraordinary “Aliya Experience” project that Shmuel introduced into his classroom, inspired by his father’s experiences. The story shifts and turns between the past and the present and concludes in an emotional encounter between the father, his son, and the students. And the story of alumnus Aharon bar-Yaakov, “As Water Reflects the Face,” reveals the change he underwent as an educator, from being rigid, inflexible, and authoritarian, to being sensitive, patient, and charitable with his students. The change came about slowly and progressively, and it brought the educator to meaningful and constructive relationships with two of his more complex students.
In the category of videos, Meir Dadush was cited for his video, “Another Way.” The film described the teacher’s special relationship with Amit, a student confined to a wheelchair, whom the teacher was able to very successfully integrate into the classroom. Last but not least, alumnus Bat-El Mermelstein also received honorable mention for her poster, “You Have Strived and Achieved (with Love) – Believe it”.
The high point of the experience was the awarding of the awards at the Cameri Theater. The ceremony was honored with the presence of the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Education, Mrs. Michal Cohen; Deputy Director General, Teaching Personnel Administration, Ministry of Education, Mr. Eyal Ram; Chairman of the Teacher’s Union, Mr. Yossi Wasserman; and the presidents of the colleges, including our president, Rabbi Professor Neriah Gutel. The ceremony began with roundtable discussions, in which the competition winners explained their works to those in attendance, and each guest received a book which surveyed the winning pieces. Later in the evening, there was a formal recognition ceremony, and the conferring of awards, in which honorees congratulated us and we were represented in some of the artistic works. Dr. Sarah Zilberstrom, Director of the Department of Internships and Entry into Instruction, presided over the festive evening with a contagious excitement and aptly described the showcased works as “the small-large gifts which the interns have bestowed upon us, through their own creativity.” Indeed, without a doubt, it is a great privilege to produce such alumni!

A Concise Answer to “What’s So Important About Eretz Yisrael?!”

By Rav Ari Shvat 
Dear Bogrot of Bat Tzion,

Recently one of our former students texted me how much she misses the torah which she learned in our Beit Midrash, and how she' like to "have a little taste" once again. So here it is!
When one notices the enormous gap between the stress that the Tanach, Rav Kook zt”l and religious-Zionism places on the centrality of Eretz Yisrael to Judaism, in comparison with the relative ignoring of the issue by rabbis in haredi circles and abroad, one can only wonder whether it is we who are exaggerating or they who are vastly underrating! Such a central question and discrepancy cannot remain unanswered, and the following article clarifies, as do the Tanach and Chazal, that the first approach is the original, as opposed to the galuti approach which is the adulterated and in need of revision.

People often ask why religious Zionism and/or Rav Kook make such a “big deal” about Eretz Yisrael? We’ll answer concisely:

1. Just as the Chafetz Chaim explains why he dedicated a significant part of his life to revive the neglected mitzvah of Lashon HaRah, for a Meit Mitzvah (neglected corpse) supersedes other mitzvot because nobody else can do it, so too a forgotten mitzvah which others aren’t fulfilling, should take priority.  For 2,000 years aliya wasn’t practical and accordingly left the agenda for many observant Jews.
2. Chazal declare indisputably that “Living in Eretz Yisrael is equated with all of the other mitzvot combined!”  This clear Tannaic oral tradition from the midrash halacha (!) is explicitly referring to all periods, even when there is no Beit HaMikdash,  and deems the issue of whether it’s officially counted as one of the 613 mitzvot (Bamidbar 33, 53) or whether it’s included in another mitzvah, or if its importance stems from its kdusha,  as academic.  This uniquely places aliya in the category of “super” actions, like Talmud Torah and Shabbat.  It’s superior to most other mitzvot, and there are many ramifications to her unique halachic status.  How much more should we address this issue, when this Super-Mitzvah is neglected by many orthodox Jews.
3. The Rambam writes about the obligation to live in a Jewish State.  Indeed, everyone is influenced by his environment, and therefore must decide by who he is to be influenced- by Jews, Judaism, her values and culture, or by gentiles. Whichever way you check, whether regarding Gedolei HaDor, comparative communities, or on a state or surely a national level, whether measuring quantity, quality, or percentage, there’s no doubt that religiously, Israel today is the Torah center of the world (more than two-thirds of orthodox Jews already live in Israel ).
4. Rav Ya’akov Moshe Charlap, predecessor of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach as rav of Sha’arei Chessed in Y’rushalayim, recalls the tradition that every historical period has its special mitzva. We can identify it by what the gentiles try preventing (e.g. in certain periods they prohibited teaching Torah, circumcision, Kiddush hachodesh), for they’re “sent” to help us (!) focus on what is “The” mitzvah of our generation.  Today, even in Russia or Iran there’s freedom of religion and no problem teaching Torah or laying tfilin. The only mitzvah which they and many nations (even the U.N.) wish to deny us today is the return of the nation of Israel to resettle Eretz Yisrael and Y’rushalayim. Accordingly, in our historic period of Kibbutz Galuyot (Ingathering of the Exiles), Israel is “The Mitzva” of our generation and requires special attention.

The question remains: “Why” is this mitzvah equal with all the others combined, and “why” does the Holy Land’s revival and Kibbutz Galuyot begin the redemption?
A. The Torah T’mima likens aliya to learning Torah, that both are equated with the rest of the mitzvot because they enable you to do additional mitzvot.  Just as Torah knowledge facilitates observing the other mitzvot, similarly living in Israel significantly increases the quantity of mitzvot, whether agricultural, national (e.g. army, Hebrew), going to work is a mitzvah, and surprisingly even “every moment and second that you are in Eretz Yisrael one fulfills this mitzvah (of settling the Land)”.  Additionally, the many obligations Bein adam l’chavero (between fellow Jews) can and must be applied to each and every person in the street, any operator on the phone, and everyone waiting on line in the bank.  Even my all-too-high taxes in Israel fulfill the mitzvah of tzedakah, paying for the medical, educational, health, security, religious, social and economic needs of our fellow Jews.  
B. Chazal explain that in addition to the greater quantity of mitzvot here, their quality is also much greater, for the Torah and mitzvot were given to be observed in Israel. Outside, they are just practice so that we’ll remember how to do them when we return.  As is often the case, the rabbis here are not innovating but rather embellishing explicit psukim: "ראה למדתי אתכם חוקים ומשפטים... לעשות כן בקרב הארץ אשר אתם באים שמה לרשתה", “Behold, I have taught you commandments do in the Land where you are going to possess”.  The Chafetz Chaim figures that the very same mitzvah when done in Israel, brings 2,000% more reward.
C. The Chatam Sofer extols living in Israel not only because of the mitzva, but because here we are living in kdusha (holiness).  It is clear from the Torah that the natural status of Am Yisrael is that not only your neighbors should be holy (Yisrael Goy Kadosh), but your language (Lashon Hakodesh), army (Tziv’ot Hashem ), coin (Shekel HaKodesh), and even fruit, mud and rocks  should be holy, as well. Similarly the Vilna Gaon says only regarding two mitzvot is a Jew 100% totally immersed: Sukka and living in Eretz Yisrael.
D. The Rivash  explains that the superior halachic status of settling in Israel  is because it is not a short-term mitzvah for the individual (e.g. I shake a lulav and then put it down), but rather an eternal and national mitzvah for all of Israel in your generation and for all future generations. When we chose to move our family tree to its final destination, it’s one of the few resolutions in life where our decision has everlasting ramifications, even 5,000 years from now. When we decided to settle in the Shomron and serve in Tzahal, we are helping define, enlarge and defend the borders of Israel, not as individuals, but for all Am Yisrael, both present and future. This adds special significance today.
E. Growing up in America, Judaism was my religion, but in Israel my Judaism has doubled for it’s also my nationality, giving significance to the mundane and harmonizing the fragmented.
May I warmly suggest seriously considering what I think most olim regard as the most significant and greatest decision of their lives. Not only for religious, but for national, historic, and more spiritual priorities as well, come benefit and contribute and be part of the future of Am Yisrael.

It’s time to come home.