"To any place where I may walk, I am always walking towards Eretz Yisrael."
The blue, white and orange colors are the nationally recognized symbol of "Shvil Yisrael"
-- the hiking trail which goes from the Northern tip of Israel,
to the Southernmost point.
This past weekend was "Shabbat Irgun", the culmination of a month of activities of the Bnei Akiva youth movement in Israel. I was never part of Bnei Akiva in the United States -- it always had a stigma of being "not religious enough" or much too aliya-centric...in fact, there was no real Bnei Akiva in my hometown growing up. (And the town was happy that way, with little encouragement for aliya, and a "frummer" environment)
Yet, here in Israel, I'm happy my kids are part of Bnei Akiva. (Also, it's not mixed -- like it was when I was a kid in the US. And its alot more fun than Pirchei Aguda).
I will admit, that I don't have patience for their Motzei Shabbat (Saturday Night) performances following Shabbat Irgun, and it's painful waiting through them when your kids aren't in a particular skit or dance.
Let me go home already...please?
And I still only get home at midnight. Yet as my wife is reading this, I know not to complain since I didn't go last year at all (I think I was away on a business trip, whew), so it was definitely my turn this year.
After lunch this past Shabbat, we all took a stroll to our local Bnei Akiva trailer-park (they're called caravans in Israel), which were painted by each group in honor of Shabbat Irgun.
Now, as I was getting this blog post ready for publication, I was pointed (thanks WBM :-)to a posting on Chayei Sarah's blog, where she opinions that Religious Zionism is all about "the land" and doesn't focus on the other mitzvot.
Bnei Akiva kids put a banner up in my neighborhood during the Lebanon War stating their solidarity with the people of the North. I smiled every time I saw it. It made me happy that in a time of crisis, the whole country felt unified and that young people in Jerusalem were proudly proclaiming their solidarity with people they'd never met.Unfortunately, Chayei Sarah's experience with Bnei Akiva in Israel must be rather limited. I took pictures of the caravan walls, and you can see for yourself what messages they are fostering. (Not that there is anything wrong with solidarity)
Now that the war is over, and the Gaza pullout is long past, I wish they'd put up banners about other things. About loving your neighbor as yourself, about helping the poor and other things that, after all, are Torah values. Perhaps the kids do discuss these things within their chapters. Certainly they have wonderful activities around the holidays, and they do learn Torah, but in terms of the public face of the organization . . . they don't seem to have learned anything from what happened two summers ago. The self-reflection of the rabbis I heard has not trickled down to the level of the kids' banners and the paintings on the chapter's walls.
It makes me sad that, in practice, Religious Zionism continues to be all about Zionism and hardly about religion at all.
Justice in Society. They kids painted every imaginable quote from the Torah, Jewish religious source that deal with Justice...and Social Justice.
On that day...that Jews love one another, respect one another, respect their heritage and when their actions are influenced by love of the Torah, love of the people, and love of the land in its holiness...on that day there will be a "Jewish Culture."
Social Justice was a major theme this year...culminating in the realization that social justice brings about realization of G-d.
And yet, we do not forget.
Over the door of each caravan was a zecher l'churban - a reminder of the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, the Jewish Temple(s). We have one in our home as well...where we also mourn the destruction of the Jewish communities of Gaza.
Finally - the Bnei Akiva kids make sure they will also never forget the destruction of the homes in Gush Katif. While some may think they learned "nothing" from two summers ago -- I think they learned quite alot. That the Israeli government can easily turn its back, and stab in the back, some of it's most loyal of citizens. I think they learned that when the government ignores the plight of fellow Jews, then THEY fill the void. I think they seek justice for themselves as well as for others.
While it may bother some, we "don't forget" -- the lack of justice then during the disengagement, and the apathy today -- the blatant lack of simple human care by the Israeli Knesset and Government for the plight of the Gush Katif refugees (many of whom still have no real housing solutions, over 50% unemployment, and many other problems).
Judaism is about ALL the mitzvot. And Bnei Akiva tries to encourage the observance of all of them.
Right now, I'm blogging this from the lobby of a hotel in Northern Israel, (during my break for dinner), where I'm attending a MDA enrichment course [I'll blog about that later as well]. There are MANY religious Zionists here...and Chareidim...and secular Israelis...and they all volunteer all over Israel -- not only in their closed environment. Why would they? Don't they only care about themselves?
It's so simple to shoot an arrow, and draw a target around it.
While it may seem like good blog material to go after Religious Zionists and say the "right wing" only cares about the Eretz Yisrael; in reality, you'll find them all over Israel, doing all sorts of wonderful inter-personal mitzvot.
And we still love Eretz Yisrael.
Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael