Thursday, April 30, 2015

YBA Alumni Profiles: Lt. Shaked Ben-Shoshan, UBA Segula, Kiryat Motzkin

UBA Segula graduate,
Lt. Shaked Ben-Shoshan
Last week, on Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israel's President Reuven Rivlin awarded the President's Citation for Excellence to 120 IDF soldiers chosen from among thousands of soldiers nominated for the honor by their commanding officers.

One of the 120 this year was Lt. Shaked Ben-Shoshan (22), from Kiryat Bialik and a graduate of Ulpanat Bnei Akiva Segula in Kiryat Motzkin.

Shaked serves in the physically challenging IDF Field Intelligence Unit.
IDF Field Intelligence soldiers in full field camouflage
"Our job is to sit on the border with Egypt and Jordan and collect intelligence from the field. It involves laying in the open for many hours at a time under the highest level of field camouflage, in order to gather the most accurate information possible to protect our borders," Shaked explained.

The IDF Spokesman's Office related that Shaked was chosen for the honor due to the long record of citations of excellence she has earned from her commanding officers throughout her army career. "I was surprised to be chosen," she said, "because most of the soldiers chosen had fought in last summer's Operation Protective Edge or for an exceptional act of bravery. I didn't participate in the operation, so I didn't expect to be chosen."

Kiryat Bialik Mayor Eli Dokorski called Shaked to congratulate her on being chosen and thanked her for the honor she brought to the city of Kiryat Bialik, saying that she was "an exemplary and significant product of religious Zionism, imbued with a sense of purpose and determination."

Shaked is in line to be promoted to the Deputy Commander of her unit in August. YBA and AFYBA salute you, Shaked!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Why You Should Vote Torah

The Vote Torah slate represents many of the most important organizations and institutions in the Modern Orthodox world today, including Yeshiva University, the Orthodox Union, the Rabbinical Council of America, Bnei Akiva, Amit, the Religious Zionists of America, Torah Mitzion and the National Council of Young Israel. These organizations partnered up to run under the a banner championing Zionist and Torah education worldwide, promoting aliyah to Israel, developing religious Zionist outreach and ensuring Jerusalem remains unified.

Read the entire article by Avi Strauss, The Commentator, April 29, 2015

Sunday, April 26, 2015

YBA Alumni Profiles: Prof. Yedidia Stern, YBA Nachal Yitzchak, Nechalim

"In the Diaspora, some Jews choose, by omission or commission, to ignore the pull of Jewish particularism on their lives. They dilute their Jewish identity to such an extent that their offspring may lose any connection to the Jewish people within a generation or two. Our biblical forebears lost the ten tribes; we today are losing significant portions of Diaspora Jewry. While the circumstances of the two cases differ radically, the result for the Jewish people is the same.

"In Israel, by contrast, the vast majority of Jews choose to emphasize their Jewishness. Significantly, the most prominent characteristic of Israeli Jewish identity—whether religious or secular, Ashkenazi or Sephardi, rich or poor, immigrant or long-settled—is a natural tendency toward a soft Jewish nationalism and a soft Jewish traditionalism. The various groups in Israeli society are deeply divided on many issues—including crucial questions of religion and state, security and peace, society and economy—and the public arena in Israel rages around these issues constantly. Israelis are even divided over their vision for the state of Israel itself. Nevertheless, almost all of us share a common last name: nationalistic and traditional." Why do Israelis choose Jewish particularism over “rootless cosmopolitanism”? "The answer is two-part: the first general, the second specific. Both touch on the meaning of life."

Read the entire article "The Spirit of Jewish Particularism," in Mosaic Magazine, April 20,2015

Speaking with The Jerusalem Post, Prof. Yedidia Stern, the head of the Israel Democracy Institute’s religion and state project and a professor at the Law Faculty at Bar-Ilan University, said that it was time for a new approach to the relationship of the state to the haredi community.

Stern said that the next government should reexamine how it deals with the central projects of increasing haredi participation in the military, introducing core curriculum studies to the haredi education system, increasing the participation of haredi men in the work force, and, critically, increasing haredi economic productivity.

Read the entire interview with Prof. Stern, "The ultra-Orthodox - Israel’s next 'economic miracle?'" by Jeremy Sharon, in the Jerusalem Post, April 24, 2015

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Soldier with cerebral palsy to be honored for excellence

"This honor belongs above all to my friends in the army and to my commanders, who accept me as an equal. They don't make any assumptions, they simply listen and help me," says Cpl. Ori Cohen, 20, who had always dreamed of serving in the IDF.

By Shlomi Diaz and Yori Yalon, Israel Hayom, April 20, 2015

Cpl. Ori Cohen with his parents
Cpl. Ori Cohen, 20, from Rehovot, will be among the 120 Israeli soldiers to be honored for excellence at the annual Independence Day ceremony at the President's Residence on Thursday. Cohen was born with cerebral palsy and fought hard to be accepted as a volunteer in the Israel Defense Forces.

For Cohen, the youngest son of Sigal and Yitzhak Cohen and brother to Mor, 27, and Shir, 24, reaching this moment was a struggle.

"This honor belongs above all to my friends in the army and to my commanders, who accept me as an equal," he said, "They don't make any assumptions, they simply listen and help me. I am very excited, of course. I was surprised to be receiving this honor, but it seems that my work was recognized by my superiors and they appreciate me, so I am happy."

Cohen serves as a network administrator at the computer support center in the GOC's C41 Corps. His job is to solve network problems. "I did not have prior knowledge, but I learned on the job," he said.

His parents take him to and from his base, where he gets around using a walker or a wheelchair.
"My parents' and my family's devotion pushed me forward, and this is the right opportunity to thank them," Cohen said.

"Another thing that helped me make the decision to serve and to contribute were my studies at the yeshiva of Rabbi Haim Drukman [the head of the YBA educational network and Bnei Akiva youth movement]. I am proud to be fulfilling not only my civic duty, but also my religious and national duties, as that is an important value in the Torah."

According to Cohen, his "minor disability" does not stop him from excelling at his work in the army. "I am not different, despite the wheelchair," he said. "I am a regular person in every way, and even in the moments when I am alone and I think about it, I do not feel different. I don't think about the difficulties for a even a minute.

"I came to the base every day, even during Operation Protective Edge, when there were sirens and rockets. I am very happy with my job, and lately, I have been thinking quite a bit about continuing to serve in the army [in the long term]. "It was important to me to join the army, since that is a value I was raised with. Everyone in my family served, and I knew that I too would be drafted, despite the situation."

"At both my high school yeshiva [YBA Hadarom, Rechovot] and army preparatory yeshiva [YBA Mechinat Kiryat Malachi], I was taught to love our country, and part of that means contributing and serving in the IDF. I taught the same thing to my groups during the two years that I was a Bnei Akiva youth leader. It wasn't easy, but I made my dream come true. I never had any doubt that I would be in the army."

Rabbi Drukman's Message to YBA Students for Yom Ha'atzmaut 5775 (Hebrew)

Do we really recognize and acknowledge the spiritual importance of Israel's Independence Day?"

Yom Ha'atzmaut Dvar Torah by Rabbi Yehoshua Magnes, Yeshivat Merkaz Harav Kook

Rabbi Yehoshua Magnes teaches Talmud and Jewish Philosophy at Yeshivat Merkaz Harav Kook in Jerusalem. He and his wife founded the Ulpanit Bnei Aviva high school for girls in Tel Aviv in 1978 and headed the school until their retirement in 2014. To invite Rabbi Magnes to your congregation as a Scholar in Residence, contact Menachem Bar-Shalom or the AFYBA office.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Rabbi Drukman's Message to YBA Students on Yom Hazikaron 5775 (Hebrew)

"Where else does an entire nation stand at attention for two minutes to remember its fallen soldiers?" Rabbi Haim Drukman, Chairman of the YBA Educational Network in Israel, teaches us to appreciate the holiness of Yom Hazikaron.

Yom Hazikaron begins at sundown tonight

IDF Yom Hazikaron Opening Ceremony at the Kotel
On this day we honor the memory of 483 graduates of th Yeshivot Bnei Akiva educational network in Israel who gave their lives as Kiddush Hashem in the defence of Am Yisrael, Torat Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael.

In the past 67 years since the founding of the State of Israel, 407 YBA Torah Warriors fell in the line of duty in the IDF, and 76 more YBA students and graduates were murdered in terror actions against Israeli civilians.

Victims of Fallen IDF
YBA Institution Terror Soldiers Total
YBA Kfar Haroeh 6 82 88
YBA Yavneh, Haifa 1 43 44
YBA Or Etzion, Merkaz Shapira 8 35 43
YBA Netiv Meir, Jerusalem 2 39 41
YBA Nachal Yitzchak, Nechalim 8 26 34

YBA Givat Shmuel - 23 23
YBA Yad Avraham, Netanya 3 17 20
YBA Pirchei Aharon, Kiryat Shmuel 1 18 19
YBA Raanana 16 16
Yeshivat Hesder Hagolan, Hispin 7 9 16
YBA Beit Shmuel, Hadera 2 13 15
Yeshivat Hesder Or Etzion, Kiryat Shmuel 7 8 15
YBA Hadarom, Rehovot
YBA Neve Herzog, Nir Galim
YBA Hashomron, Karnei Shomron 8 4 12
YBA Ohel Shlomo, Beer Sheva 10 10
YBA Beit Yehuda, Kfar Maimon 2 7 9
Yeshivat Hesder Hakotel, Jerusalem 9 9
YBA Mateh Binyamin, Beit El 6 6
YBA Bar Yochai, Meron 2 3 5
UBA Tzfira, Tzafaria 5 5
Yeshivat Hesder Maale Yitzchak, Maalot 2 3 5
YBA TO"M, Herev Le'et 4 4
YBA Kiryat Herzog, Bnei Brak 1 3 4
Orot Israel College of Education 3 3
Yeshivat Hesder Neve Dekalim, Ashdod 2 1 3
UBA Neot Avraham, Arad 2 2
YBA Tikvat Yaakov, Sde Yaakov 1 1
YBA Aderet, Bat Yam 1 1
YBA Ner Tamid, Hashmonaim 1 1
YBA Beit Shean 1 1
YBA Sussya 1 1
UBA Amana, Kfar Saba 1 1
UBA Even Shmuel
Yeshivat Hesder Akko
Total 76 407 483

Sunday, April 19, 2015

In Israel’s army, more officers now religious. What that means.

The percentage of officer cadets who are religious has grown 10-fold since the early 1990s. Among secular Israelis, that’s being met with a mix of respect, and concern.

By Christa Case Bryant, The Christian Science Monitor, April 17, 2015

In the early 1990s, ... Orthodox men accounted for 2.5 percent of graduates of infantry officer training courses; since then, it’s grown to more than 25 percent... In some combat units, they make up as much as 50 percent of new officers – roughly quadruple their share of Israel’s population. The upward trend, coupled with a parallel decline in the number of combat soldiers and officers coming from secular families, is dramatically changing the face of the IDF. Read entire article

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Thousands of YBA students visit Auschwitz to pay tribute to the 6 Million every year

Yom Hashoah begins at sundown tonight. Holocaust Education is an intrinsic part of every YBA school's curriculum. Yeshivot Bnei Akiva - Training Israel's Future.

Alumni Profile: State Attorney Shai NItzan, YBA Netiv Meir

State Attorney Shai Nitzan (photo: Dudi Vaaknin)
"A state where the prosecution can wage court cases against a former prime minister and treat him like an ordinary man, a state where the court convicts a former prime minister, is a state to be proud of," State Attorney Shai Nitzan said Monday, following former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's conviction in yet another corruption case.

Read the entire article by  Edna Adato and Israel Hayom Staff, from March 31, 2015.

"I am proud to head a prosecutorial body that has been able to bring a prime minister to justice," State Attorney Shai Nitzan says of Ehud Olmert's conviction • "No one is above the law or immune to the law regardless of their station in life," he says.

Read the entire article by  Edna Adato and Israel Hayom Staff, from April 2, 2015.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Passover Interview with Rabbi Drukman - Part 3 of 3: Influencing Public Values

"Do everything you can to ensure the future of the people and the country."

Rabbi Haim Drukman established a generation and paved the way for the religious Zionist movement in many areas. Apart from the love of Torah and love of Israel, he has a great message here for today's youth

By Ariel Horowitz – Arutz Sheva, Small World Magazine, 12 Nissan 5775, 01/04/15 (Translation)

Influencing the values ​​the public

YBA Chairman, Rabbi Haim Drukman
 In the rabbi’s study in Merkaz Shapira, tables and benches are arranged in orderly rows. It is a small sanctuary in the eyes of the few students who have been coming to study with Rabbi Drukman for many years at the house; to be taught Torat Eretz Yisrael by their teacher, the positive attitude to the State and the words of Rabbi Kook. 

It seems that in recent years the religious Zionist youth have strayed a little away from these things. The emphasis has shifted to the individual, the personal. Hasidism is gaining wide acceptance, and the path of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook is less dominant. "I agree that there is more of a trend toward the individual today, the personal, and therefore youth are searching for these aspects," says Rabbi Drukman, adjusting his glasses on his face, "[But] one should see himself as part of society – this is the truth, and the need to educate to what is true. We shouldn’t under-estimate the value of the individual, but we have to see the individual as part of the whole. The correct way is for each individual to figure out how he can best help to benefit the whole of society and build on that. It is like the relationship between the hand and the body: Isn’t it unthinkable that the hand should speak for itself, as separate from the body? A body without a hand is crippled, but the hand without the body is worthless. When a person considers only himself, it may easier, more pleasant, but the truth is that he is part of the society. The individual does not become lost as part of the society: the individual takes on its real value as part of the society."

Is it still possible to educate towards these values?

"I think so. I try to learn from my mentor, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, who reiterated dozens of times the main principles that were important to him, and little by little they sunk in. He did it on purpose. He understood that values ​​have to sink in, to penetrate all the armor that person has. The values ​​have remained the same values, and we still need to educate toward them, but we need to change the means of doing so because we cannot ignore the place that Individualism is gaining. An educator needs to talk to the place where his students are at. If he ignores this rule, his words will not be heard. It can be compared to an adult and a baby who both want to drink. You give a glass or an open bottle to the adult, but for a baby you make a small hole in the bottle for him to suck on, otherwise he might choke. The same holds true with students. We cannot speak in a language that would not be listened to; you have to figure out a way to present these values ​​to the audience in front of you."

Once a week, Rabbi Drukman devotes an entire evening to the questions of first year students at his yeshiva, Yeshivat Hesder Or Etzion. For years he was the senior rabbi at the Association of Hesder Yeshivot. But despite the fact that new Hesder Yeshivot have opened everywhere, many teens today are preferring to enroll in pre-IDF Mechina (preparatory) programs. "The Hesder Yeshiva [track] is by far the best path," said Rabbi Drukman, "but I supported the establishment of the pre-IDF Mechina academies because not every youth is inclined to attend a Hesder Yeshiva, and a year of Mechina before being drafted will strengthen him very much. There were those who thought that the Mechina programs would hurt the Hesder Yeshivot, because they might attract some boys who are on the border and could also be appropriate for yeshiva. But I do not think this is the right attitude. We have to worry about all of them."

But a high school senior can say to himself: I will go to a Mechina, learn for a year, or a year and a half, get stronger and then serve for a full three-years in the army, like everyone else. What need is there for Hesder Yeshivot?

"The purpose of Hesder Yeshivot is not to strengthen the guys so that they can succeed in keeping their religious identity in the army. This is a very important goal, but it is the goal of the Mechina programs. The Mechina programs do not pretend to give rise to scholars. The role of the yeshiva is to train scholars. Those who go to the Hesder Yeshivot contribute to the security of the whole of Israel, its physical security and its spiritual security. Our mission is to grow scholars who also serve in the army. Can we accept a situation in which Torah sages will grow only from those who do not go to the army?"

But most Hesder Yeshiva graduates do not continue into the rabbinate.

"Our sages long ago taught us ‘A thousand students make one teacher.' In order to produce one exceptional scholar, we need to have a thousand students studying the Torah. Moreover, even those not involved in the rabbinate, but instead chose to go into other areas, still should be Torah scholars. Is there not a qualitative difference between those who learn Torah for one year and those who study diligently for a few years? I very much appreciate the Mechina academies and think they are doing a great thing, but you can’t come out a scholar after just one year in a preparatory program. There is a great need for Mechina programs, but there is an even greater need for more Torah scholars, and its the yeshiva's role to cultivate them. "

Turn away from evil, do good

It is doubtful that Rabbi Drukman imagined that his nomination as Israel Prize laureate would bring back an old and painful affair: the sexual harassment charges against the YBA Netiv Meir Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Zev Kopolovitz. A few days after his nomination, there were calls for the Minister of Education to revoke the award decision. A group of YBA Netiv Meir graduates sent a letter to the Minister of Education, which claimed that Rabbi Drukman knew of the criminal deeds of Kopolovitz - for which was sent to prison - but did not contact the police, allowed him to continue teaching in the institution and tried to cover up the story. "That's a false and fabricated story," thunders Rabbi Drukman, while sailing in his memory back to those days. "At the beginning of the affair I was told that he was retiring as head of the yeshiva because of health problems, and I regretted it. After a while he returned to his post, and I understood that his health condition had improved. Four years later, after I had become Chairman of Yeshivot Bnei Akiva, I heard rumors about what he had done, and on the same day I suspended him from his position. Truthfully, I did not know that I had to report it to the police. In those days, 12 years ago, these things were not as salient as they are today. It's not true that I knew and covered it up; that's a complete lie. I knew nothing. And when I learned of the rumors, I suspended him from his position immediately. Indeed, it was wrong that I didn’t report it to the police, and I regret that. "

How do you think the religious community should treat sexual harassment in the community? What about solutions such as the Takana Forum?

"Our public should treat sexual harassment like any other public: through the police. We must not, God forbid, ignore any such phenomenon or the need to deal with. I do not think that the religious community is any different from the general public in any way." 

Rabbi Drukman in his study
The conversation with Rabbi Drukman goes on and on. It is interrupted by phone calls from people wanting to wish the rabbi well for the holiday;  his loyal assistant brings the rabbi documents to sign, including updates on what's happening in the rabbi’s many areas of responsibility. Rabbi Drukman expertly juggles all these tasks; recalling a quote from an old book, and knows exactly where to quickly find the quote among the thousands of books that line the walls of the room.

You cannot ignore one of the largest endeavors of Rabbi Drukman, one in which he has been involved since ancient times: the Bnei Akiva youth movement. He was a member, and a leader in his youth. The movement has undergone major changes over the years - some would call them "extreme." Drukman has called them "positive strengthening". The rabbi is happy to address the subject and sets his eyes on the changes brought about by the Bnei Akiva movement in Israel: "Of course there is tremendous progress in Bnei Akiva compared to what it used to be. Naturally, since the Yeshivot Bnei Akiva educational network was founded, which built high schools and encouraged youth to study Torah, religious practice has been strengthening.

We always knew in the Bnei Akiva youth movement that we are part of the people of Israel. We understood that one cannot say 'I saved my soul,' but rather we should take care of all the people. We understood that our job is to educate, and the matter is progressing on an upward spiral. We understand the need for patience and forbearance, even today. You can’t be anxious. We have to understand that if you want to educate the people of Israel, it is necessary to be patient, and we must not think that everything happens quickly. So it is with education. Do not give up; believe in the big ideal and say, God willing, we come to it."

Towards the end, as if not enough words had already been spoken, I ask him what message he would like to deliver to today’s religious Zionist youth. Rabbi Drukman pauses a moment, thinking. "You must know that you are the future of Israel and the State of Israel," he says, "It is very important that you do everything you can to ensure the future of the people and the country. You should be filled with values and identify more and more with who you are, be role models in every way and try to ‘Love for the Sake of Heaven.' God asks us to love simple things: learning Torah, good behavior and speaking graciously to others. These constitute Love for the Sake of Heaven. You must always think about how you can bring heavenly love to people. Just as we see great progress in our people, we see also a thirst for True Judaism. You can help promote this process: the process of returning the nation to its natural roots. This our mission today.”

Go to AFYBA Website

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Passover Interview with Rabbi Drukman - Part 2 of 3: Rabbis and Politics

"Do everything you can to ensure the future of the people and the country."

Rabbi Haim Drukman established a generation and paved the way for the religious Zionist movement in many areas. Apart from the love of Torah and love of Israel, he has a great message here for today's youth

By Ariel Horowitz – Arutz Sheva, Small World Magazine, 12 Nissan 5775, 01/04/15 (Translation)

When Rabbi Drukman cried

YBA Chairman, Rabbi Haim Druckman
Rabbi Drukman sees his main occupation as an educator and teacher of Torah. His natural environment is the house of study, lecturing his students. Nevertheless, much of his public activity was in the Knesset. Rabbi Drukman was a member of Knesset for the National Religious Party, and for a certain period he resigned and founded the ‘Moreshet’ faction. "Serving in the Knesset was for me like doing reserve duty [in the army]," he says, "Every Jew is expected to do reserve duty. I didn’t want to be in the Knesset; I wasn’t looking for a public position, but I was called, so I went."

This public service was indeed forced upon Rabbi Drukman. One day, near Passover, Rabbi Drukman traveled to Jerusalem to bake matzot. He was already aware that some activists wanted him to run for the Knesset, and the natural address to make that happen was Rabbi Kook. He rushed to the home of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda to tell him that his mission is to educate, and that he has no desire to go to the Knesset. Rabbi Zvi Yehuda listen to his words, but a few hours later he was called again to the rabbi’s home in the Geula neighborhood. "I went in and found those who wanted me to run for the Knesset were there. Rabbi Zvi Yehuda had listened to them, and told me I should go for it. When he said that, I burst into tears, but I accepted his ruling." The Rosh Yeshiva traded the Beit Midrash for the Knesset, but managed to continue at the same time to teach Torah.

Do you think that rabbis should intervene in politics? Is the role of the rabbis limited to the Beit Midrash, or in all walks of life?

"The bottom line is that it depends on who it is," says Rabbi Drukman. "Ideally, Torah personalities should be found everywhere, but it’s not always appropriate. I don’t think that just because someone has been ordained as a rabbi it makes him qualified to deal with every subject. But if there are Torah personalities who could lead the public not only in the synagogue but also in the Knesset, the fact that he is also a rabbi is not a detriment. In fact, it is even a bonus."

Rabbi Drukman doesn’t only expect Torah personalities to serve in the Knesset, he also also expects a political united front for religious Zionism. The current split, he says, does not add much respect for the Torah of Israel. "Religious Zionism should be cohesive, and [if so,] its political representation will be in proportion with its real power," he says. "There are religious people integrated into the larger parties, and one reason for this is our success in education. Some people who grew up in the religious Zionist camp think there is no longer any need for a sectorial political party; that it is possible to exert influence in every party. I think they are wrong. Experience shows that a religious person in another party can influence society only an individual, but not collectively. The State of Israel needs a large religious Zionist party, where everything is rooted in the value of a Torah that is connected to the People, the Land and the State of Israel. This is the image of a true Torat Eretz Yisrael. This [unified political camp] will bring great blessings for the Torah and for the country as a whole. The present situation, where there is no unified religious Zionist party, is felt in many ways."

You can’t be counted a minyan (quorum)

One area where Rabbi Drukman has a lot to say is conversion. In 2003, with his leaving the Knesset, Rabbi Drukman began a new role as head of the state’s conversion authority in the Prime Minister’s Office. His [relatively liberal] attitude toward conversion upset the Haredi public officials, which came to a head when Rabbi Avraham Sherman, a judge on the Rabbinical Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the conversions of Rabbi Drukman should be revoked immediately. He soon became a persona non-grata among the ultra-Orthodox community, which was clearly demonstrated when he visited one day the well-known Itzkowitz Shteibel (synagogue) in the heart of Bnei Brak. "I entered one of the rooms of the shteibel and besides me there were eight Jews. When the tenth man showed up, I said, 'We have a minyan (quorum), you can start [the prayer service].' But then someone said, 'You cannot be counted in a minyan; we have to wait for one more.' I remember I was so shocked, that I couldn’t manage to pull myself together until another Jew came in and we began to pray. If it wasn’t so painful and distressing, it would have been funny. I can’t be counted in a minyan?!"

But the ultra-Orthodox community, in their eyes at least, is motivated by fear of Heaven. They object to your method of conversion.

"Even if someone thinks otherwise, those who practice a second method have a basis in Halacha (religious law). How can you cancel out-of-hand all these conversions if they were made in accordance legitimate halachic opinion you can trust? Moreover, the judge who rejected my conversions announced his decision in public, at a convention of rabbinical judges, clearly mentioning my name, without having talked to me even one word beforehand. How can a judge rule without hearing all sides? How can he offhandedly mention my name, in a forum of hundreds of rabbinical judges, without first having consulted with me? How is it possible to speak about me in such harsh and sharp language? Is this proper? Is this the way of the Torah?! "

What does this story show us regarding our relations with the Haredim?

"Our relationship should be like a family. We are all one big family, which has a difference of opinion, but with love. What unites the people of Israel is far greater than what separates us. We say in the Passover Haggadah, “In every generation they try to destroy us." For those who are trying to destroy us, there is no difference between religious and secular, between leftists and rightists. We need to learn from our enemies that we need to be united. Certainly we have a [religious] lifestyle in common with the ultra-Orthodox, although I am sorry to say that I am not sure they think so. You can see this in their newspaper: any Haredi politician, no matter how small, who is elected to the Knesset, is referred to as a great ‘Rabbi’, even if he has no rabbinic qualifications, whereas when writing about our [religious Zionist] rabbis, they omit the title altogether. 

In our study halls you can find all the books of Torah erudition, but in the Haredi study halls you won’t find any books written by giants of Torah who were Zionists. Can you name one Haredi yeshiva with the books of Rabbi Kook on the shelf? Not books of Jewish Thought, nor books of Jewish Law. My heart aches, but it does not change the fact that we are a family. I'm not saying it's easy, but you have to overcome the difficulties. I would hope that if ordinary Haredim would recognize us as we are, it would be different. You have to get to know one another. Our Haredi brothers and our secular brothers have to get to know us and we have to get to know them."

Go on to Part 3: Influencing Public Values

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Passover interview with Rabbi Drukman - Part 1 of 3: The 'Formerly Religious' Phenomenon

"Do everything you can to ensure the future of the people and the country."

Rabbi Haim Drukman established a generation and paved the way for the religious Zionist movement in many areas. Apart from the love of Torah and love of Israel, he has a great message here for today's youth

By Ariel Horowitz – Arutz Sheva, Small World Magazine, 12 Nissan 5775, 01/04/15 (Translation)

Rabbi Drukman at memorial service
for Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, zt"l
This year, as every year, Rabbi Haim Drukman visited the grave of his mentor, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Hacohen Kook, on the Mount of Olives on his yortzeit (the Fast of Esther). Thirty years have passed since that rainy day that Rabbi Zvi Yehuda was buried. "I think that his character is sorely missed today," said Rabbi Drukman with sad eyes, "In many situations, I feel that he is missing." How symbolic that three years ago, on his way back home from the Mount of Olives, the rabbi received notification of winning the Israel Prize.

"The real prize is the privilege to contribute to the nation, the state, the Israeli public," says Rabbi Drukman, "When there is official recognition of this enterprise, it certainly adds value."  Rabbi Drukman’s modest words actually allude to several enterprises: his establishment of Bnei Akiva yeshivas in Israel, his many years of work with the Association of Hesder Yeshivot and his position as head of the Israel government’s Conversion Authority. This last role put him in a severe – some would say explosive – conflict with the ultra-Orthodox Haredi world.

In his book-lined study at his home in Merkaz Shapira, a small religious community in the south, just a short walking distance from Yeshivat Bnei Akiva Or Etzion that he founded, Rabbi Drukman sits, learning and teaching, advising students and rabbis, in person and on the phone; Looking down from above is a painting of Rabbi Kook, whose name he mentions during our conversation over and over again. Just before Passover we came to his home to talk to him, to try to understand some of his teachings, and to hear his thoughts on religious Zionism, today's youth and Israeli society.

‘Taking off the hat’

When I ask Rabbi Drukman to recall the religious world that he experienced in his youth, he was not tempted to glorify the past and put down the present. As usual, he is full of gratitude for our situation today. "The situation in the days of my boyhood was far different from the case today. Like [the distance between] heaven and earth. I was once interviewed on a Channel One TV program, and the interviewer said, 'Israel is full of religious education, but it is also full of datlashim - formerly religious people!' I replied: 'Let your ears hear what your mouth is saying: There are also formerly religious people! Decades ago the majority were formerly religious people! You have to understand that just a few decades ago everyone was traveling in just one direction: the off-ramp leaving the path Torah and the Mitzvot.

Boys and girls finished the eighth grade in a religious school, and that was the end of all their connection to Judaism. They were drawn to the big ideas of that era: building the Land, pioneering, Socialism; and it seemed to them that these ideas had nothing to do with the Torah. We would say, 'so-and so has taken off his hat' – because in those days the boys would go with hats, berets, in public. Who ever dreamed that religious youth would go on the street wearing a kipa? How can anyone not see what a revolution took place? Today there is a world of tremendous religious Zionist Torah that is unprecedented! We have an entire population; we have institutions and youth movements. Look at how much value there is in [religious Zionist] education; how effective it is and how much it influences."   

Are ‘formerly religious’ people today leaving religion for the same reasons as before?

"I don’t think so. Today, it is usually the religiously weak youth, those without a strong religious background; boys who went with a kipa but without any commitment to religious Zionist values. If there are internal values, you can stand up to all kinds of crises and difficulties, exposure to other influences and peer pressure. But if there are no values, a religious upbringing will not last. Some people are outraged when formerly religious people are referred to as 'captured babies’ [who never learned Torah]. They claim that that the formerly religious are people with great values who turned to another path after thoroughly investigating [religion]. But no one can convince me this is the reality. [In most cases] it is a weak youth who comes into contact with a particular social group, and finds it difficult to resist the peer pressure; so he allows himself to pulled along in order to fit in. What can you do? It is a sign of lack of character. It is important that we fill our students with substance and develop their character, [so they will have the backbone] to stand on their own."

Do you think that secularization is associated only through one’s encounter with another world, or can is be due to problems in the religious world itself?

"You cannot generalize. In most cases, it is about a weak character who could not cope with the reality around him, but there are also youths who were disappointed with the religious world, so they left. Rabbi Kook, of blessed memory, wrote long ago that people, by mistake, relate to Judaism through those who they see practicing it [rather than for what it really is]. Sometimes someone may encounter a rabbi that disappoints him, and because of it he projects that disappointment onto the values the rabbi ​​seems to represent. One needs to make a distinction between a specific rabbi and whole of the religious world. It is the identification of Judaism with a specific individual that often creates the motivation to become secular."

Go to Part 2: Rabbis and Politics

Go to AFYBA Website