The recent BA80 video stirred up a lot of feelings around Chaverim, both past and present – relating predominantly to the ideology and current direction of the Tnua. In response, I thought I would write a Choveret on Aliyah in BAUK. It developed into two parts and is presented here, slightly modified for Yediot. It is really long because it is a Choveret and not a normal blog post; I just wanted the Choveret to be publicised more.
Enjoy! If you want to discuss this further, please feel free to email me at email@example.com 😊
Thank you to Rafi Cohen and Michael Rainsbury for their help in producing this.
Eli Maman, Chinuch Worker 5779
“We believe in the Torah…”
We all know this famous song. Someone usually asks what someone else believes in and then the whole room bursts into singing about what we as Bnei Akiva believes in, and one of these things (accompanied with everyone pretending to be an aeroplane) is Aliyah.
Most people when asked what the ideology of BA is in a normal conversation would reply Torah, Avodah, and Aliyah. But when we look at mifkad we see the following lines:
We are asking what our ideology is and there is no mention of Aliyah in sight! To drive this point home, we can look at the Constitution and see the following points in Section A which define the purpose of the youth movement:
A2 – BA espouses the ideology of Torah V’Avodah, as a means of unifying Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael, and Torat Yisrael.
A3 – Torah V’Avodah reflects the desire to be actively involved in the rebuilding of Medinat Yisrael, bringing Torat Yisrael into fruition.
A4 – BA’s educational framework shall encompass its three fundamental principles, namely: Am, Eretz, and Torat Yisrael.
A5 – BAUK identifies as a Modern Orthodox Jewish youth movement defined as the synthesis of the modern world with Torah values and Halacha as prescribed by the Rabbinic head of the movement.
Once again, no mention of Aliyah!!
So, where do we see the idea of Aliyah being regarded as a fundamental tenet of our ideology?
The Bnei Akiva(h) Handbook, 1957
There was a handbook published in 1957 for the Tnua which gives educational content which Madrichim could use in preparing peulot for Chanichim. The beginning of this book has a section that is titled ‘About Bnei Akiva’ (spelt with an “h” at the end) and gives a history up to that point and details the structure of the Tnua. One of the subsections is about the aims and ideals. Maybe there’s a mention of Aliyah in this section??
“BA educates its Chaverim to a life of religious Chalutziut (pioneering) with the framework of the religious Hityashvut (settlement) of Hapoel Hamizrachi in Israel.
In many cases, the movement can be proud of having taught a young person what it means to live a full Jewish life. Our achievements can also be seen in the more general nature of character training, teaching our chanichim to grow up as respectable people. However, our aims above are inviolable and must be before every madrich at all times. Not all chanichim may reach those ideals but that is the standard, and we may never lose sight of it in our educational work. The many hundreds of Chaverim who have made Aliyah have shown that we are right.”
The chapter goes on to detail an ideal BA journey, and it always ends in Aliyah. So, we can clearly see there is an absolute focus on Aliyah within our Tnua.
The Apathy of Anglo-Jewry
Recently a video celebrating the 80th anniversary of BAUK was released which went into the history of BA from its early Hachsharot in Gwrych Castle and Thaxted Farm all the way to National Weekends and modern-day BAUK. It is up on YouTube, and there were premiere screenings all over the world. The same week, an Oleh who grew up in BA posted a letter on Facebook saying that there was a somewhat lack of Aliyah focus in the video as he and a few others in the comments noted that Aliyah is a central focus and aim in BAUK, yet it seems that it is not seen as such nowadays. The thread left us with some questions to address.
Every week we have lots of Madrichim and Roshim give up hours of their time to produce Peulot and twice a year we have countless Chanichim on Machane from Aleph through to Israel Machane, and yet people seem to think that we lack passion and drive compared to the “good old days”. People are saying that youth movements aren’t possible in general because everyone wants short term thrills and aren’t interested in ideals. Is this true? Is it possible to be ideological in 2019?
People say that nowadays individuals in BA will be a Madrich/a because it looks good on their personal statement or CV and that they will maybe take camp and then after gap year will maybe stay involved, but Aliyah numbers are going down, and therefore the aim that we set out to achieve is not being met in the same manner. However, in reality, in the past six years 150+ Chaverim have made Aliyah. These are people making Aliyah straight from high school or after Hachshara, or even after uni and the Mazkirut, so maybe this isn’t so true? People may not be doing it as early as the people in the 70s and 80s because people like to have a job before going or plan life differently in general. Up until the early 2000s, every Mazkirut member had to open an Aliyah file with the Jewish Agency during their year/s on the Mazkirut. Maybe circumstances are just different for us nowadays compared to the early days of the Tnua which means we do things differently?
A Youth Movement: Rebels with a cause
We are a youth movement that is driven by an extremely strong ideology that is realised fully by countless people making Aliyah and has had an impact on society and culture in both the UK and Israel.
However, there is an alarming increase in apathy felt by Anglo-Jewry and this, combined with the polarisation of Anglo-Jewry, poses one of the most significant challenges to us.
BA is and should be (to an extent) a challenge to its members and their families. We do not merely pander to the people who attend. We offer them a breed of ideology – Religious Zionism – and religious identity which is sadly lacking in the abandoned cathedrals of the United Synagogue. We must proudly promote things which are sometimes at odds with others. We should be even more passionate in our ideology and create peulot that showcase it even more and form Kesharim (connections) with Chanichim that are long-lasting so we can impact their lives in a more significant way!
This has been a theme of BA from the day it was formed. When Chaverim went to Israel to set up kibbutzim, they were 17/18 years-old. This is what the handbook mentioned earlier suggested everyone to do! We need to follow in these people’s footsteps and make a lasting and substantial impact on everyone’s lives that we touch.
Final Notes for Part I
We are an Aliyah movement. We have been doing this for generations. We all know a family member, a friend, a madrich who have made Aliyah. We have made people feel passionate about this ideology and this is shown by many examples in Israel (Part II!).
Yes, we say that our ideology is Torah V’Avodah at Mifkad and in the Constitution and this has empowered people to make an impact in the UK with regards to various issues, but this should be seen as an added bonus (though not to be belittled in the slightest!). The reason why we don’t mention Aliyah in Mifkad or in the Constitution is that they assume that we are in Israel as that is the true fulfilment of those words.
Nowadays, you hear people talking about Aliyah due to Anti-Semitism or if Jeremy Corbyn becomes Prime Minister, but that is not our Aliyah. Our Aliyah is our core belief and ideology regardless of “Jew” being shouted at us in the street and if the Prime Minister is Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, Theresa May, or Jeremy Corbyn and will always remain that way.
Our ideology is empowering in many ways and all aspects of it should be embraced, adored, and even challenged by all Chaverim so that it is strengthened from generation to generation and Aliyah will always be at the centre of it.