Some of you know that after high school I spent a year on Kibbutz Be'erot Yitzchak as part of the Hachshara Program of Bnei Akiva. It was an amazing, life-changing experience where we studied, worked on the kibbutz, hiked all over Israel and in general learned about what a life of Torah and Avodah should be. This year had a profound influence on me, and because of it I could never forget the pledge I had made to myself to make a life here in Israel.
Bnei Akiva in America is way different than here in Israel. It's small. When I was active in the movement as a madricha in Moshava and of Shevet Amiad, friends who were not involved in the "tnua" didn't quite understand it, and even thought of it as something not quite religious enough. But my B.A. friends were/are amazing people who had the courage to make Aliyah at very young ages and to raise their children here and live meaningful lives just by the fact that they are here. Many of them made Aliyah 18 or 20 years ago. Through that time I have managed to stay in touch with only a few of them, but many of them contacted me earlier this year when Liat was sick, and then again when we moved here in September. They are special people from a very special time in my life, and I am happy to try to re-establish friendships with them.
Bnei Akiva in Israel is huge. And popular, and respected. There are hundreds of sniffim (branches) all over the country and they meet every Shabbat and once during the week for activities and trips. The kids are grouped according to their grades, called "shvatim". Fourth through eighth grades have a specific shevet name for each grade, and starting in the ninth grade you get your own shevet name that stays with you for your whole life (I'm in Shevet Ariel, Isaac is in Shevet Golan--he was very active in Bnei Akiva in Venezuela). The month of Cheshvan is "Chodesh Irgun" in Bnei Akiva, essentially a month-long color war between the shvatim from 4th to 8th grade. The kids practise dance routines and paint their rooms at the snif. They go on trips, and go visit nursing homes. They are at snif almost every night and come home to tired to do homework (of course). This past Thursday night the shvatim had their performances. All of this culminates in "Shabbat Irgun". Tonight after Shabbat they had a "moving up" ceremony where all the shvatim moved up, and the ninth grade got their permanent name. This happened all over the country, not just in Modiin.
I have been encouraging the girls to become involved in Bnei Akiva. Many Americans here in Modiin do not join B.A., or the other youth groups. It is understandable, because it is noisy and unstructured, and all in Hebrew and it can be overwhelming, especially for new olim. But I feel that if they can become involved, it will help their klita (absorption) a great deal. Tali and Orli have participated in Chodesh Irgun (they have the paint-stained clothing to prove it), and have really enjoyed it. Liat does not seem to be interested, although I'm hoping that eventually she will also participate.
I went to the performances on Thursday night and to the naming ceremony tonight. Truly amazing. When I looked around, I was overcome. All these people out to support their children. To me its perfection. Religious people, loving and living in their land. There were over 900 kids in our snif (there are two sniffim in Modiin). N-i-n-e h-u-n-d-r-e-d! Boys and girls, together, but separate. (Don't get me started on how normal I think this is--many of the older "bogrim" (graduates) do get coupled off). Tonight, the ninth grade performed their "daglanut" (flag dance), waving the Israeli flag in all kinds of patterns and formations. And, of course, the ceremony ending in Yad Achim, (the anthem of Bnei Akiva), and Hatikva (will I ever get through that with dry eyes?) And then the naming of the new shevet, with fireworks, and lights and song and dance, and flag waving and, for me, pride in our youth, the future of Am Yisrael, B'eretz Yisrael, Al Pi Torat Yisrael.
In case you were wondering, the new shevet's name is Shevet Dvir. Mazal Tov!
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