What do Swedish, American, Italian, Mexican, French and South African High school graduates have in common?
They are all participants of Bnei Akiva’s ‘Hachshara’ program!
Today, 300 participants from 22 countries began their year long journey in Israel on the World Bnei Akiva year program, called ‘Hachshara’.
They all have one thing in common – they are participants of the World Bnei Akiva year programs. The participants are from varied religious and Jewish backgrounds and many different cultures. The ‘Hachshara’ program was established exactly 50 years ago and was founded by Yoskeh Shapira the first Secretary General and founder of the World Bnei Akiva Movement. The first ‘Hachshara’ group was compiled of participants from Bnei Akiva of North America.
For fifty years, the World Bnei Akiva Movement has been a pioneer when it comes to year programs in Israel. In fact, World Bnei Akiva’s ‘Hachshara’ was the first year program in Israel geared towards overseas students.
This past Thursday all of the participants of Bnei Akiva’s ‘Hachshara’ program met at the Kotel – all wearing the official Bnei Akiva shirts. “It is so amazing to see hundreds of high school graduates from literally every continent singing the same songs and dancing together – all in front of the Kotel, and of course in Hebrew. The highlight was definitely at the end of the ceremony when all the participants sang Hatikva – there were many with tears in there eyes. The sight of all these Jews together in front of the Kotel is priceless.”
There are many different types of Hachsharot: the ‘Tafnit’ (in Hebrew means ‘Turning point’) program for instance is geared towards participants from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Every two months they will experience a different type of Israel –
Yeshiva/Women’s seminary – Basic Torah Studies, Marva – IDF volunteer program, Kibbutz, Magen David Adom – First aid volunteers across Israel, Development town and lots more.
At the other end of the spectrum we have the MTA (Midreshet Torah and Avoda) program which is for participants from the same countries as ‘Tafnit’. These participants will spend most of the year at a Yeshiva, studying Torah. – The range of programs is very varied.
Alex Angel, a participant of the ‘Lehava’ Hachshara program from the US:
“I have been so happy since I arrived in Israel! I am making many friends in and outside of my program from many places of the world and having ecstatic, deep, and hilarious conversations every day. I am very seldom not around people. My program has people from the US, England, Sweden, Switzerland, two guys from Italy, two guys from Denmark, a girl from Amsterdam, and a guy from Germany. The people in my program come from all different backgrounds of Jewish upbringing and Hebrew speaking and writing abilities. Our stay in Yerushalayim has been a month of learning. My favorite class in Yerushalayim was ‘Religious Zionism’. It did not at all attempt to impose a certain view on its students, but rather openly explored as many views as time allowed. We took a trip to Bet El with this class. I have also been to the Kotel a few times on other trips. Visiting the Kotel for me has been very moving but never blissful. I have never felt before that I was so far exiled and still in my own land. I hear the loud speakers of the Mosque underneath my prayers and I feel invigorated to mend my own life and to mend the world to bring about the building of the third temple. We saw Ammunition Hill, the Knesset and the Supreme Court as well. I have also really enjoyed my Tanach and Talmud classes.”
World Bnei Akiva’s ‘Hachshara is one of the only programs that actually encourages their participants straight forward to make Aliyah to Israel. Bnei Akiva sends out Hundreds of ‘Shlichim’ (emissaries) every year for the same cause – Encouraging Aliyah.
As for Aliyah, Alex states:
“I feel that my parents were very pleased to see me spend a year in Israel before making the decision to make Aliyah. The longer I am here I only grow constantly stronger in my commitment to continue to live and make aliyah to my home, Israel, leaving my hallow life as an exile in the states. I know that Israel has so much mishugash along with its mind-blowing beauty. I know that politics, financial issues and security are so often turbulent matters and are so often in disarray, but how can any parent, any Jew, leave the infant, still-learning Israel because there are things it does that frustrate us. I am bound by Hashem to be my brother's keeper, and when the actions of Israel frustrate me I am bound to contribute and aid Israel with a strong right hand of light. I am now every day anticipating serving in Machal, Israel's program for volunteers who intend to serve a minimum of a year and a half in Tzahal, the IDF. I sincerely intend to make aliyah after this. My trip last summer I was blown away by just the radiant physical beauty of Israel, the beautiful people, food, music and land. Now I am seeing all of this but through spiritual eyes seeing the layers of physical light and elevating it by beginning to see the Master Artist as The Source with the intent of adivine plan.”
Estelle Wytwornik, mother of Jacob, participant of the MTA program:
“I would like to thank Bnei Akiva for the most amazing year that our son, Jacob Wytwornik has had this year. Jacob has been in the Eretz Hatzvi Yeshiva and wow what an incredible year it has been!
We knew this was going to be the best year of Jake's life but we have to tell you that we never could or would have imagined that it was going to be like this. All the weekends, Shabbatonim with all the groups together, touring, programs - the time that the team at Bnei Akiva have spent organising
and preparing for continuous success have been achieved.
I have received so many calls here in Australia from many parents of children coming to Israel this year on programs. They are impressed when seeing Jake's emails, photos and hearing us praise the programs.
We look forward to welcoming Jacob back to Australia in the next 10 days but we know where his heart is now
All of the World Bnei Akiva years programs are affiliated with the 'Masa' project, of the Jewish Agency for Israel.