Proving yet again the volatility of news cycles, no sooner had last week’s column been submitted than President Obama raced the Vienna Accords to a vote before the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) prior to a Congressional vote, totally eviscerating a main argument in my column. This column, hoping for a longer shelf life, follows the road less taken, a path I pursue infrequently here at Hamodia: the “feel good story.” Comprised of a few small “snapshots” of inspiration, my wish is that when you read this column after Tishah B’Av, you will be doing so in Yerushalayim, getting ready for davening at the restored Beit Hamikdash, enjoying our nation’s long-awaited Redemption.
Ramat Beit Shemesh (RBS) is a community visited in an earlier column. Overwhelmingly wonderful and overflowing with Torah Jews and institutions, it suffers from poor public relations in Israel due to a negligible but vocal group of chareidi Jews acting in a most non-Torah way. Of course, the mainstream media loves to highlight the vile actions of these few over the mitzvos of the many. Several times in the last few months, this fringe element has assaulted Orthodox Jews serving in the Israel Defense Force.
Though coverage is not to be found in the mainstream media — as I trust the source, a good friend in RBS — I share with you now an actual event:
During the Nine Days, a soldier with his giant duffle bag and large gun got on the popular 417 bus connecting RBS to Yerushalayim. No seats anywhere. A chareidi gentleman sitting near the front got up and offered his seat to the soldier. The soldier smiled, but refused. The chareidi man said, “You risk your life for mine; it’s the least I can do.” The soldier, smilingly, insisted the older gentleman keep his seat. The soldier then said “thank you,” to which the man answered, “No, thank you.” My friend, sitting one row behind, witnessed and heard the exchange and recognized its special energy during the Nine Days. He said, “These kinds of stories aren’t retold nearly as much as the negative ones but are much more indicative of our dear nation. How about trying to publicize these more than those?” So, I have…
An additional 20,000+ Jews will be benefiting from Shemittah this cycle. The Law and Justice Committee of Israel’s legislative branch of the Knesset just passed a reading of a law, referred to as “The Shemittah Money Law” protecting some 20,000 poor Israelis. This new law will suspend debts owed by poor Israelis for a period of three years, giving them an opportunity to get back on their feet and into a position where they will be able to pay off their debts and will prevent government-licensed sheriffs from seizing property for the payment of debts. The proposed law will likely be brought to a final vote in the Knesset’s winter session and is expected to pass easily. This measure is expected to save Israelis struggling with bills of some NIS 10 billion. The average debt of a person who is entitled to debt forgiveness is $65,000. Most of the debts are owed to institutions such as banks, government agencies and commercial companies. “There are in Israel many individuals who cannot pay their debts. These people cannot get out of the hole they are in. They are buried deep in the cycle of poverty, and this law will help them open a new chapter in their lives,” said the Minister of Justice, who initiated the legislation.
Often this column discusses events occurring near Alon Shvut, our community mid-way between Yerushalayim and Chevron, in the Judean Hills. The events over the last year, as you know through the media and this column, have generally been tragic, starting with last summer’s abduction of the three boys, followed by several terrorist attacks. Motivated by the same insane rage that fueled the horror in Har Nof, the enemy attacks us because where Torah thrives, evil feels threatened.
Alon Shvut, from its outset, has been connected to Yeshivat Har Etzion, a leading Torah center and arguably the foremost site for study of the Tanach. It is during the Nine Days that the yeshivah and Alon Shvut becomes the world’s center of Tanach learning, hosting the annual Tanach conference with 200+ classes in Hebrew and English and over 7,000 participants from around the world. To quote our neighbor, one of the organizers, “It’s so exciting. Everyone is walking around with their Tanach in hand; everyone’s talking about Tanach; everybody’s learning Tanach. I think these are the most exciting days of many people’s year; it’s inspirational, exciting, interesting, and enlightening. I think that one of the reasons that we’re so excited about learning the Tanach is that it connects us or we feel connected to the Land.”
The Land of Israel sings with chessed, tzedakah, and Torah learning of its people — the Redemption is at hand.
Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst, and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his wife and two wonderful children. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.