Our Ma'ale Ephraim Branch Goes South for a Weekend to Learn about the Negev
פורסם ב: ב' תמוז תשע"ז



Our Ma'ale Ephraim branch of the Bnei David Mechina went south to the Negev last Friday for a learning trip and for a special Shabbat in Yerocham. This is how they tell of their experiences:
We got up early to pray the morning prayers with sunrise and off we went. Our first stop was Masuot Yitzchak, a moshav on the Coastal Plain near Ashkelon. There we met with Moshe Moshkovitz ("Moshko"), a man with many merits to his credit in his long career. He was one of the founders of Masuot Yitzchak, the city of Efrat, the Har-Etzion Yeshiva, served as the head of the Shafir Regional Council and the Efrat Regional Council and more. He spoke to us about taking responsibility for public affairs of Clal Yisrael, ending his words with a quote from the Ponivezer Rav, who when explaining to David Ben Gurion of his wish to establish the Ponivez Yeshuva said to Ben Gurion: "Yes, I am dreaming, but I am not asleep!"

After this talk the bus continued on southwards until we reached the vicinity of Tze'alim where we met Amir and his family, who had established a ranch in the Negev. We heard about the life of a family living alone in the desert on their ranch, the sometimes problematic relationships with their Bedouin neighbors, and in the end we also had the chance to see their family business: hothouses that grow parrots and others that grow hobby fish to sell to individuals who wish to have them in home aquariums. All of the work we saw, from the hothouses to the water line, the electrical work and the filters for the fish – all was done by the Amir and his family with their own hands. We spoke about initiative, creativity and how in spite of all the difficulties everything is possible. In the end we received a crate of especially tasty oranges which we were able to have the merit to take of the tithes (trumot and ma'asrot) by ourselves and partake of this important mitzvah.

Returning to the bus we continued south to Golda Meir Park. There we were met by Dr. Amir Galili, from the Beit Berl College, who specializes in study of the Bedouin in the Negev and in general. We heard about what exists in the present, what can be done to improve for the future, and what can be done in order to better integrate the Bedouin into Israeli society if it is at all possible. He also spoke about the results that may come about if succeeding to better integrate the Bedouin into Israeli society, like less cases of theft and more cases of paying taxes, etc. We were surprised at hearing some of his talk and the guys asked a lot of questions: about stereotypes, the traditional Bedouin way of life, a ranch that suddenly had sprung up in the last few weeks in areas used by the army for training with live ammunition and more. We learned a lot and enjoyed the talk very much – and then we continued on our way.
We reached Merchavam, a new village established in the early 2000s and named after Rechavam Ze'evi ("Ghandi") hy"d. There we met Yossi Shtrahl, a resident of the village and alumnus of Bnei David, who after learning in the Mechina and army service, returned to our post-army program. He completed his rabbinic studies and moved to the south and works as a teacher in Yerocham. From him we heard about the importance of settling the Negev and the placing of Jewish villages in such a manner as to curb the spreading of illegal Bedouin settlements. We talked about the difficulty of living in a place where there was no active Beit Midrash for Torah study.

After a full day in which we learned much, we went to Yerocham for Shabbat. We ushered in the Shabbat with prayers together with much singing and dancing that eventually spilled out into the street. It was an uplifting moment, just as the sun was giving off its final rays of light before setting behind the mountains and just as the Shabbat was just starting to give off its first holy rays of spiritual light.
The Shabbat meal was fit for a king, followed by an oneg Shabbat and well-earned sleep. In the morning we scattered to pray in various different synagogues after which we reformed and had Kiddush with a talk from Yoni Wolf, one of the members of the Torani group ("garin") in Yerocham. We also met with Rabbi Nir Rosenberg, a graduate of the hesder yeshiva in Yerocham, who now serves as the rabbi of Einav, a village in the Shomron. We also had the pleasure of having our executive administrator, Yair Shimel, eat with us.
The third meal ("seudah shlishit") we had at the home of Rabbi Blumenzweig, the head of the Yericham yeshiva. We heard words of Torah about the weekly portion and sang songs of the third meal, followed by evening prayers and havdala at the rabbi's home, to conclude a great weekend

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