yeshiva study .
(photo credit: Courtesy)
While religious Zionists are well represented in the army, academia and politics, “We still have to fight for acceptance of our values,” said Dudu Saada, executive director of the Besheva Media Group, at Monday’s opening of its 15th annual Jerusalem Conference at the Crown Plaza Hotel.
Jerusalem Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar sounded a less confrontational note as he remembered his student days at a yeshiva in Shlomi near the Lebanese border.
In 1967, 18-year-old Amar was in a sherut (a multiple-hire taxi) with Michael Suissa – who later became mayor of Shlomi – and a young man from Kibbutz Hanita.
The kibbutznik asked Amar what he did and Amar replied that he was a student.
The kibbutznik automatically assumed Amar was a university student. He was surprised that any university at the time would have a branch in Shlomi.
Amar clarified his answer by saying he was a yeshiva student. The kibbutznik thought the yeshiva might be connected to a university, but Amar corrected that impression too.
When the kibbutznik finally grasped the facts, he was all but horrified. “You can’t be studying stuff from the Middle Ages,” he exclaimed.
Amar again corrected him, saying what he studied actually predated the Middle Ages by several centuries.
The kibbutznik was dismayed that such a “normal-looking” young man would waste his time on such pursuits instead of doing “something productive.” The pioneers who came to Israel from Europe, he said, rejected religion and threw it out. He was even willing to bet that within 10 to 20 years there would be no more Torah study in Israel.
“You’ll see,” Amar replied, “in 20 years, there’ll be a synagogue at Kibbutz Hanita.”
The kibbutznik laughed out loud at what he thought was a huge joke.
Amar forgot all about the incident. Then, 22 years later, when he was living in Bnei Brak, he was called to Shlomi to deliver a eulogy for David Danino, Suissa’s predecessor as mayor.
After the service, Suissa took Amar aside and asked if he remembered a certain conversation with a particular kibbutznik that took place in a sherut many years earlier.
But Suissa kept prodding until the incident finally found its way back into Amar’s memory. At that point, Suissa excitedly showed Rabbi Amar a newspaper article about a synagogue that had been constructed at Kibbutz Hanita.
Today, almost every kibbutz has a synagogue, or at least a place that has been set aside for worship, said Amar, and most synagogues also have a kosher kitchen.
Seventy years ago, he noted, no one would have believed such a thing could be possible.