Volunteers from the Nahar Deiah Hesder Yeshiva learn - and teach - a valuable lesson about grace under fire.
By BATSHEVA POMERANTZ
The Nahar Deiah Hesder Yeshiva in Nahariya, founded in 1996 with 15 students, today has about 100 students including a program for overseas students. It was established after a barrage of Katyusha attacks in the North and the subsequent Operation Grapes of Wrath caused many people to leave the area.
Two weeks ago, a Katyusha exploded on a Nahariya apartment building, killing one woman. Faced with the distressing reality, the yeshiva's faculty followed developments and decided the following day to send the students home for Shabbat.
After weighing the situation and bearing in mind the responsibility of having students remain in town, the rabbis decided to continue studying despite the emergency situation.
"The decision was not easy, but we feel that the study of Torah protects us," Rabbi Eliyahu Blum, head of the yeshiva, told Metro. "In addition, we maintain our connection to Nahariya also in times of stress and crisis. We feel that leaving Nahariya, as many residents did, is not abandoning the city. Yet those who remain don't have where to go, and the presence of the yeshiva indeed strengthens them."
In routine times, yeshiva students volunteer in the wider community with Ethiopian and FSU olim in a charity clothing store and with bar/bat-mitzva youth. The staff and students volunteer in the Western Galilee Hospital in Nahariya (currently situated in underground facilities), where they organize blood drives, visit patients and distribute food before Shabbat.
After the shelling began, the yeshiva relocated to a large shelter in a nearby school.
"We try to stick to a routine of learning. The atmosphere is special, since we are in a large room and study together. We are not glued to the news. When we sometimes hear explosions, we are aware of something happening around here," student Roy Zobel of Kiryat Ata explained to his concerned parents.
Some parents did not allow their sons to return to the yeshiva, while students on the overseas program had already finished their term of learning before the hostilities started.
The students are helping out in various ways, in coordination with the municipality and other organizations. From the first day, they distributed mattresses and food to people in shelters. Students and staff have been visiting shelters to speak to residents, many of whom are cooped up for long hours in rundown shelters.
"We strengthen the residents, including new immigrants," said student Alon Buchholz of Holon. "Some residents are discouraged and feel this situation will not end soon. As yeshiva students, we try to be optimistic and have faith, realizing that this is part of a long process."
When some 700 children and their parents moved south to Nitzanim, yeshiva students helped them leave their homes and escorted them on the buses. The yeshiva's rabbis visit the hospital to boost patients' morale.
Meanwhile, third-year and fourth-year Nahar Deiah students are serving in the IDF on the northern and southern fronts as part of the hesder program, which combines Torah learning and army service. The yeshiva's second-year students are preparing for next week's August IDF recruitment.
Nahariya residents in private shelters who are in need of food can contact the
Nahar Deiah Yeshiva at
(Margalit) or via its
Web site at www.nahariya.co.il
Yeshiva students will then deliver the food parcels.
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