Bnei Akiva Fundraiser Recognizes Modern Day Jewish Heroes
Bnei Akiva held their tenth annual Gevura Jewish Heroes Night on Tuesday, October 24th, at the Museum of Tolerance. Ruth Berkowitz, board president, served as emcee and thanked everyone for coming in spite of it being opening night of the World Series.
Rabbi Shaul Feldman, director of Bnei Akiva for the U.S. and Canada, gave over the following d’var Torah from Parshat Noach. On the pasuk, “Vayeshlach et hayonah,”(“He sent the dove,”) Rashi comments, “Ain ze leshon shlichut” (“This doesn’t mean shlichut”). Rabbi Feldman said the lesson is clear. The next pasuk says the dove didn’t find comfort, so it returned. A shaliach never looks for personal comfort and always finds a way to make its mission happen. For the past 50 years, the shlichim of Bnei Akiva have strengthened countless young Jews.
Rabbi Feldman then introduced the two newest pairs of shlichim for Bnei Akiva, Adina and Hagai Keisar in the city and Eli and Shani Skaist in the Valley.
The program for this special evening then turned to the Jewish heroes that protect and defend Israel. Seated in the audience was Mrs. Miriam Peretz, also known as “the mother of all the boys.” Mrs. Peretz has four sons; two are currently serving in the IDF, and two were killed while protecting the Jewish people’s eternal homeland. Mrs. Peretz said that serving in the IDF should be regarded as a mitzvah and a privilege, not an obligation.
Bnei Akiva’s honoree for the event was the organization My Truth, represented by CEO Shachar Liran-Hanan and Deputy CEO and co-founder Avihai Shorshan. The organization, according to Shachar, is comprised of IDF reservists and officers (men and women) who seek to share the values and experiences of IDF soldiers in Israel and around the world. Their mission is to educate the public and fight misinformation. My Truth’s members speak openly about the ethical dilemmas Israeli soldiers face on a daily basis. Shachar and Avihai gave examples of how the media and the general public vilify the soldiers, even though they are fighting against radicals seeking to demolish the Israeli nation. They also described cases of IDF soldiers risking their lives to uphold their commitment to the IDF’s ethical code.
Shachar had finished the army and was working for the Jewish agency in Durban teaching Hebrew and Israeli dancing until May 30, 2010, when a co-worker brought her a newspaper that said an Israeli navy commander took over a “humanitarian” flotilla, killing nine “peace activists.” Shachar was shocked, as the Israeli papers told a completely different story. Those so-called “peace activists” were armed with guns, knives, and metal sticks to inflict maximum pain. The “humanitarians” threw Jewish soldiers over the deck and handcuffed and kidnapped IDF soldiers. One of the soldiers involved in the operation was Shachar’s brother, Adam.
Shachar contacted the media to tell the true story, but no one was interested. At that moment, she decided she would anything to fight those who slander Israeli soldiers.
Avihai Shorshan was drafted into the army in 2005 and joined the special forces of the Golani Brigade. He was on a mission to arrest a terrorist in the Gaza Strip. In order to achieve this, he had to be in the house next door to the terrorist. He and his comrades explained to the Arab family what they were doing there. The grandfather in that family said that he was not feeling well, and when it became clear the IDF medic couldn’t adequately treat him, the soldiers called their regimental doctor. The doctor told the soldiers that they must get the old man to the hospital. They were instructed to secure the area so they wouldn’t be discovered while evacuating him.
In this case, the IDF soldiers got out without casualties, but they made a calculated risk that could have led to disastrous results by speeding up operations. In addition, the grandfather had to be transferred from an Israeli hospital (Beilinson) to Shechem. Avihai said that whoever knows the Kasbah of Shechem knows that coming in the middle of the night and running in different directions is something you would rather avoid.
The straw that broke the camel’s back – and moved Avi to join My Truth – were the lies and accusations against soldiers following Operation Defensive Edge in 2014. Avi posted his story on Facebook and asked others to add their stories. He was surprised to see hundreds of stories shared, and what began with a few friends now contains over 200 testimonies from IDF reservists. The newest project, the Testimony Project, includes dozens of video clips of testimonies that will be published on social media to function as an advocacy tool. In addition, there will be a written report (which will be translated into English). Currently, My Truth also has six delegations of soldiers who meet with communities and college campuses internationally to explain to students who the IDF is fighting against and what values drive them.
Avi said, “When people lie, in other places in the globe, people die.” He says that BDS and fighting terrorists in Gaza are one and the same. He said when radical left wing organizations like Breaking The Silence (a group of former IDF soldiers who criticize the IDF) say, “We, the Israelis, are poisoning the Arab water,” they are lying, fueling hatred, and aiding the next terrorist attack.
Rabbi Muskin of Young Israel of Century City was one of a large number of rabbis present, and he expressed his appreciation saying, “Bnei Akiva infuses in our students a sense of idealism which is so important in the twentieth century.”
Additionally, many Bnei Akiva youth attended the event. YULA student Gavriel Gershon – who has participated with Bnei Akiva since the fifth grade – said before the event that although the Dodgers clinched the NLCS this year, Bnei Akiva hits a grand slam every time. Gavriel said that thanks to great programming such as shabbatonim, seminars, leadership programs, chessed programs, a world class summer camp (Moshava), and shlichim that teach about the land of Israel, he feels a deeper connection to Zionism and the desire to make aliyah.