By Daniel Lederman
This past year I was fortunate enough to have learnt at Yeshivat Hakotel. It has been an incredible experience. For those who want to understand the Israeli perspective, whilst also learning at a high level, I highly recommend the Yeshiva. Yet it was Bnei Akiva’s Torani program that changed how I perceive Israel on a religious, social and political level – and all in the company of an exceptionally talented group of people. This was in no small part down to the work of Michael Rainsbury and our Madrichim, but it is also a reflection of the quality of its participants. This article would like to argue that three features of Torani stand out as being particularly relevant to its success. I will try to limit the superlatives, but in truth, the Torani program deserves the praise.
Firstly, there were the Shabbatot. From the Golan to Eilat, and from Chashmonaim to Tel Aviv, we truly experienced Israel in all manner of settings. The atmosphere at these weekends was unbelievable – the tisches were a particular highlight, providing ruach and spiritual nourishment on a level I doubt I will see again. At their core, however, the Shabbatot helped us to bond us as a group. Given the large diversity of our Torani group, which included six European members, this smoothed the integration process and ensured that we were able to appreciate the year as a collective, as opposed to as individuals. On a larger scale, Torani also gave the opportunity to engage with world Bnei Akiva and other youth groups from across the globe. This international perspective on Israel provided great value in its diversity, but also reinforced the message that we are part of something greater than ourselves.
It is also clear that the Pesach Seminar introduced a nuance and complexity into the Israeli narrative that many of us had not seen before. In meeting people from all sections of Israeli society (Religious Zionists, Secular Zionists, Charedim, and Arabs), we were forced to grapple with familiar issues, but from a different perspective. Talking to Arab teenagers our age was particularly enlightening. It demonstrated, certainly on a personal level, how we can often form unsophisticated and simplistic views if we surround ourselves with like-minded people. The Pesach Seminar did a great deal to amend this, and I believe the interaction with wider Israeli society represents what Bnei Akiva should be aiming for on a larger scale in the UK.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, Torani ensured our year had focus. We were always aware that we were part of a movement. Consequently, we were able to frame events like Yom Ha’atzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim in the context of what it means for a boger of Bnei Akiva UK, not just as a teenager on their gap year. The same also applied to our work on Kibbutz Ein Hanatziv. Although the kibbutz movement has declined in significance, understanding the sacrifice that the early chalutzim made was important. It helped to put into perspective our role as Religious Zionists today, and how we might fulfill the ever-present motto of Torah v’Avodah.
I will be forever grateful to Michael Rainsbury and the madrichim for what was an incredibly enjoyable and stimulating Torani program. Special thanks should, however, also go to my fellow members of Torani, who truly enhanced my year in Israel and left me with memories that I shall never forget.
In short, go on Torani. You won’t regret it!
Veida is coming up in just a few weeks! Want to get the conversation going on a particular issue? Yediot would love to hear from you. Get in touch by clicking here or sending us a Facebook message.