Flying the Flag Down South with Yeshivot and Seminary Students

The Mechilta on Parshat Yitro (Shemot 19:9) interprets a conversation between Moshe and Bnei Yisrael just before Matan Torah. According to the Midrash, when Hashem tells Moshe to tell Bnei Yisrael that during Matan Torah they will only “hear” his voice, Bnei Yisrael respond that they ask to not only hear Hashem, but to “see” him as well. The reasoning they gave has become a famous saying: “לֹא דּוֹמֶה שׁוֹמֵעַ לָרוֹאֶה, one who hears isn’t comparable to one who sees.”

After the terrible day of Simchat Torah of October 7th, the Mizrachi department at the WZO (The Center for Religious Affairs in the Diaspora, hereafter: “The Center”) decided to allocate a significant portion of its resources to ensure that every yeshiva and seminary student will transform from being a “שׁוֹמֵעַ” to becoming a “רוֹאֶה” regarding what happened on October 7th.

To achieve this, the Center established relationships with kibbutz members, soldiers, policemen, and residents of the nearby cities of the Gaza envelope and built several options for a 12-hour delegation down south.

“At first we were told that due to security reasons overseas students aren’t permitted to travel to the Gaza envelope,” says Ariel Chesner, the Director of the Center. “We responded that they are our future ambassadors! How can it be that students, many of whom will be going back to campuses outside of Israel and face antisemitism, won’t be able to testify and say that they saw, that they witnessed the tragedies and stories of October 7th?! That all they will be able to say is that they heard of it?! This was completely unacceptable to us. So, we got to work. We partnered with Masa who helped us with obtaining the permit to operate the delegations and added additional funds to carry out the mission.

“These trips change the students from within. They suddenly understand that October 7th isn’t someone else’s story, it’s theirs. That it’s their brothers and sisters that were murdered, their country that was attacked. And at the same time, they hear stories of true bravery and heroism and they are filled with pride to be a part of the Jewish people.”

After 3 months of intensive work, the Center facilitated over 33 delegations from 30 institutions in which over 2,500 students participated. They plan to continue this important educational activity for next year’s students as well.

 

The Center for Religious Affairs in the Diaspora aspires to connect Jews across the world to Israel and to Judaism. To achieve this goal, we are active in projects across the world, as well as unique programs of education and advocacy within Israel for gap year students.

© 2024 World Mizrachi

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