BA80 – Do We Really Believe in Aliyah? Part II

In Part I, we explored how Aliyah is the ideology of the Tnua, and even though it may seem that it is no longer seen as such, we are and always will be an Aliyah movement. This leads us into this second part, where we will explore the history of Aliyah in the Tnua and the impact that BAUK Olim have had in Israel, and looking towards the future.

Eli Maman, Chinuch Worker 5779

Early Olim and Kibbutz Lavi

In 1944, Thaxted Farm, Essex, was purchased – which would serve as the movement’s home and as the centre of ‘Hachshara’, preparing Chaverim for Aliyah to Religious Zionist Kibbutzim in Israel.

After the War, Bnei Akiva took the lead in Aliyah. The first Aliyah to British Mandate Palestine was held in 1945 and quickly followed by Aliyah Bet in 1947. In fact, the first official Aliyah from BAUK was by Eliyahu Blum in 1944. This was no mean feat as it meant going against the White Paper during WWII. This just showed how much it meant to Bnei Akiva to get people into Israel at that time.

With the establishment of the State of Israel, new opportunities arose, none more defining than the Hityashvut (settlement) of Kibbutz Lavi in 1949. I’m sure many of you know about Kibbutz Lavi. It is one of the most famous Kibbutzim in Israel. Either you have visited there as part of the JFS Lavi programme, on a year 9 Israel trip, or Israel Machane. Or you have seen some furniture in your shul emblazoned with the Lavi logo. Well, did you know that Kibbutz Lavi was founded as a BAUK project!?

Bachad, the adult movement of BAUK (the parent body nowadays), raised money in the UK for the Kibbutz as well as teaching Chaverim valuable agricultural skills as well as educating them in Torah. Thaxted Farm was the centre of this. Among the founders of the Kibbutz was Yehuda Avner (Gubby Haffner from Manchester), Mazkir of BAUK from 1949-1951, who went on to become a diplomat and close advisor to Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Yitzchak Rabin, and Menachem Begin. (You may have heard of his book ‘The Prime Ministers’ which is a must-read for anyone interested in a more in-depth look at the early years of Israeli history).

 

60’s and 70’s – Hachsharot in Israel

In 1962 Thaxted Farm was sold, and the focus of Hachshara shifted from training farms in the UK, to programmes in Israel. In 1964, 28 participants attended the first Hachshara in Israel. This was closely followed by the settling of Kibbutz Alumim in 1966 with a Garin (a group of people who move to Israel together) quickly established in Alumim in 1968 with a number of Chaverim choosing to complete Bnei Akiva’s ideological goal and make Aliyah. Hundreds followed and made Kibbutzim across the country such as Bet Rimon, another Kibbutz with the majority of its founders being BAUK Olim.

 

80’s and 90’s – A major move

An ideological debate erupted in the Tnua. Major cities in Israel were becoming more and more established as the State continued its rapid development. This had led to Olim settling in cities as opposed to on Kibbutzim and Chaverim going to Yeshivot instead of Hachshara on Kibbutzim. This led to a debate about where the focus of our Chinuch should be aimed: should it still be focussed on developing Chaverim’s agricultural skills or should it be more education based for people to live in larger cities.

In 1991, a compromise was made and Hachshara became Etgar and Torani. Etgar was still the classic Hachshara in a Kibbutz, but the programme was expanded to include 6 weeks of Yeshiva/Sem. Over time this became Lehava and is now Kivun, a gap year with a focus on volunteering and a wide range of activities in Israel. Torani was what it is today, a gap year with participants based in Yeshiva/Sem, but instead of Succot and Pesach Seminars, the participants went to Kibbutzim during Bein Hazmanim. This compromise was seen as a highly controversial move in the Tnua at the time but there were many who were interested in, and going to, Yeshiva or Sem instead.

 

The Present – What do we do when we make Aliyah?

Going back to the constitution that we quoted in Part I, we see that A3 says that a primary aim of BAUK nowadays is the “desire to be actively involved in the rebuilding of Medinat Yisrael, bringing Torat Yisrael into fruition.” This sounds like we should be actively getting involved in the building of the state of Israel (i.e. Aliyah!). We also see that Aliyah is something that is a topic on every Machane. We all have a family member or madrich that has made Aliyah, and this has been celebrated on the BA social media platforms, they write in BAUK publications talking about their lives there, and sometimes even continue their BAUK involvement by becoming Hachshara madrichim!

But it seems as if there’s not much to do anymore. There hasn’t been a new Kibbutz built in the past 30 years, and they seem like they belong in an era which has passed. So, what is there for us to do and why should/do we care so much about Aliyah nowadays?

As mentioned in part I, in the past six years, there have been over 150 BAUK Chaverim that have made Aliyah. We can’t yet judge their impact on Medinat Yisrael, but based on what has come before them, we can be sure that it will be just as big! One need only look to ‘The Jewish News-Jewish Agency Aliyah 100 – One hundred Jews who moved from Britain to help shape the modern State of Israel’ for plenty of notable examples of BAUK Chaverim whose Aliyah has made a great impact on the Medina (Brackets denote their position on jewishnews.timesofisrael.com/the-aliyah-100-list/).

  • Michael Dickson was the Southern Fieldworker (what Rafi C’s job used to be called) in 5759 and 5761 and made Aliyah in 2006 and went on to become the Executive Director of StandWithUs Israel. He has fundamentally altered Israel advocacy and brought the discipline into the social media age (29)
  • Jason Pearlman made Aliyah in 2007 and was Foreign Media Adviser to President Reuven Rivlin and is currently the Foreign Affairs Advisor to Minister Naftali Bennett at The Israeli Ministry of Education. (11)
  • Ephraim Halevy from London was the 9th director of Mossad (1998 – 2002). He was special envoy to five consecutive Prime Ministers. Also, as a confidant of King Hussein, Halevy negotiated his greatest and longest-standing success: the 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. (2)
  • Daniel Taub was the Ambassador to the UK from 2011 to 2015 and his tenure saw scientific and business cooperation boom. Prior to that as a diplomat, Taub had made crucial contributions to the Camp David process. (3)
  • Major Keren Hajioff made Aliyah in 2009 and first served as an artillery instructor and is now the Head of Digital Media of the IDF and recently won the Nefesh B’Nefesh Bonei Zion Prize for Young Leadership which recognises the achievements of outstanding Olim and their contribution to the State of Israel. (22)
  • Daniel Goldman made Aliyah in 1992 and currently is the chair of Gesher which is Israel’s leading body in creating meaningful encounters among people of various ages from various sectors of Israeli society. Under his leadership, Gesher’s thoroughly professional and impactful work has enabled thousands of Israelis and Diaspora Jews to conceive a shared vision for Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. (6)
  • David Newman is Dean of the faculty of humanities and social sciences at Ben-Gurion University. Also, as a Jerusalem Post columnist, he opposes boycotting Israeli universities: to that end, he has worked on numerous transnational colloquia, brought delegations to Israel, and in 2013 was awarded an OBE for services to UK-Israel relations. (21)

These are numerous examples of Bogrim who have made outstanding contributions to the State of Israel and show that there is so much that we can all still do in Israel even though the era of chalutziut and building Kibbutzim seems to be over. Not only is there a strong focus on Aliyah within the Tnua, but we can also see there have been Chaverim who have made Aliyah and who have made a profound impact in Israeli society and culture. This is only scratching the surface and hopefully the list will expand more and more as more people attain the ultimate ideological goal of Aliyah!!

 

Why we do what we do

In a TED Talk titled “How great leaders inspire action”, (HIGHLY recommend: www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action?language=en#t-247675) Simon Sinek says the following:

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it, and what you do is simply the proof, of what you believe…There are leaders, and there are those who lead. Leaders are those who hold a position of power or authority. But those who lead are those who inspire us. Whether within organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to. Not for them, but for ourselves. And it’s those who start with why, who have the ability to inspire those around them or find others to inspire them.”

Our passion for and knowledge of our ideology (as explored in Part I) gives us a strong answer for when people ask us why we do what we do and gives us the strength and ability to change the world wherever we are.

 

Double Blessing

I’ll leave you with a message that Asher Cailingold, Mazkir 5712-5717 (1951-1957), and brother of Esther Cailingold z”l who died in the War of Independence in the battle for The Old City, said to a group of Hachshara participants a couple of years ago that embodies everything that has been explored in these two parts:

“To quote Shakespeare: By making Aliyah you will be “twice blessed”. In the first blessing, your Bnei Akiva experience and education will prepare every one of you for Aliyah to Israel where you will become part of one of the world’s greatest success stories, despite its many challenges. There is really never a dull moment. Your lives will be enriched to a degree which is unmatched in any other country.  

The Second Blessing is in YOUR contribution to the development of Israel’s Society. This has two aspects – your education and professional skills, and even more importantly, your unique understanding and passion for Torah V’Avodah as your ideology is just what we need more of in Israel.”

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