Seeing the Good

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U’re’eh B’tuv Yerushalayim — Seeing the Good

by Rabbi Elchonon Oberstein

I recently returned from a wonderfully positive visit to Israel and want to share two observations which gave me much cause for optimism. One son lives in Modiin,a community with many American olim who could be living very well in Teaneck but who have chosen to raise their families in Modiin .This is a tolerant Israel. The bris of my new grandson brought together a segment of society composed of native Israelis as well as older and younger olim who have careers and are part of the culture and commerce of Israel, none are living in isolation. These people are not rioting, they are too busy running their companies, serving in their professions, and becoming part of Israel. Idealists, all.

During the week, I stayed in Yerushalayim with my Mir Kollel son, who has been given a golden opportunity by Aish Hatorah to give the daily shiur to a group of American yeshiva high school boys in a summer program called “Bnai Aish.” I accompanied them on an inspiring trip to the new Yad Vashem.

This visit to Yad Vashem was different from any I had taken in the past and it is due to the wonderful guide, an Israeli Chareidi mother of five expecting her next child very shortly. She spent over 3 hours putting Hashem into Yad Vashem. At every point in the story, she added Yiddishkeit, she used frum terminology and mamarei chazal to give a Torah perspective to an exhibition that largely leaves G-d out. I was intrigued by this new sight, at least for me, of a chareidi woman working for Yad Vashem. At one point, observing how many frum people, even very Chassidic looking people were there during the Nine Days, I told her that I have a feeling about what it meant for the future.

Recently, Rabbi Menachm Porush was interviewed in Mishpacha Magazine about growing up in the Yerushalayim of old. He said that things are better now than when he was a child. For example, the Lemel School used to draw in boys from Meah Shearim and entice them into secular society. Now, the site of the Lemel School is the Boyaner Cheder. I told the guide, Chagit Lapidot, that I believe that one day Yad Vashem will also adopt a more “Torahdik” approach. Her answer in a nutshell blew me away. “Of course they will, because we will be the majority.”

I asked her what her husband did and she told me he is part of Arachim , a kiruv organization that is bringing secular Israelis to Torah. She said they also have a college program on campuses that is meeting phenomenal success. Secular Israelis, when approached properly, are hungry for Hashem, she feels.

Before we left to go to Yad Vashem , the Rosh Hayeshiva of Aish Hatorah told the boys, to see the zeal of the Nazis in destroying us and to take it to heart. If we would care to save Klal Yisrael with the same desire that they had to destroy us, we would succeed beyond our wildest expectations. Chagit told me that there are about 20 observant guides out of about 80. Yad Vashem wants guides like her because so many of their visitors are religious. To her, this is more than a job, it is also a form of kiruv. I saw how much the teens gained insight from her and how she patiently filled in the vast void in their knowledge of this terrible period. We ended the long and meaningful tour by davening mincha in the new shul at Yad Vashem, something one never imagined in the old Yad Vashem. By the way, the new head of Yad Vashem is none other than Tommy Lapid, formerly of Shinui., and a Holocaust survivor himself.

Not everything is rosy in Israel. If one reads the blogs, one can certainly find much disheartening,but that is not the whole story. On my trip I saw the “good dati” and the “good chareidi” and believe that they hold the key to the future of Israel as a “Jewish” State. We are on the road and we are making a lot of progress. Maybe I am too sanguine, but only time will tell.

One final observation, while riding on the bus I noticed an Israeli girl in uniform who couldn’t have been more than 21, standing on the steps. Every time the bus stopped she got out and looked at every passenger and for any sign of trouble. She was the security guard to keep away a suicide bomber. What a dangerous job! It reminded me that we still do not dwell securely in our land, despite all of the hopes and naive platitudes of the secular Zionists “A land without a people for a people without a land,” how naive.

My comfort came from the posuk that just naturally came to mind as I have been climbing up and down the hills of Jerusalem this week. Yerushalayim, harim saviv lo, ve hashem saviv le amo. Jerusalem is surrounded (protected) by mountains and Hashem surrounds and protects His People. May it be so.

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13 Responses

  1. Jewish Observer says:

    on my way back to maalot dafna from the old city last night I asked a chasidishe man for directions. 3 monutes after he told me them he ran back (he was walking in the opposite direction) to tell me a slightly better way. I was blown away by the raw mentschlechkeit.

  2. Loberstein says:

    I once happened to go on a Baltimore shul mission to Israel where we stayed in the same hotel as the Agudah Yarchei Kallah. One of the leading luminaries of the Agudah told me in response to my question that when the chareidim become more numerous they will have to take respopnsibility for the functioning of the state. When you talk to Americn chareidi leadership not for atribution, they all recognize that their counterparts in Eretz Yisroel have a learning curve to overcome. Right now, they are still in the Yishuv Hayashan mentality , but I think that is changing. I have read of job courses for chareidi women and even for men. I think gradually more chareidim will want to live with more financial resources. You can’t live on bread and water when your neighbor who has a job owns a car and can afford things that you never considered owning before you saw them owning it. Jews aren’t dumb.Evrywhere but in Israel, they know how to make money, I think economic necessity with bring about societal change. Maybe I am sanguine, naive, etc.

  3. Garnel Ironheart says:

    On one hand it’s nice to be reminded that there is much that is positive in Israel. Naturally we tend to forget since good news isn’t what makes the news, as it were.

    However, I am concerned with the guide mentioning that religious Jewry will one day be the majority in Israel. If that’s the case:

    “She was the security guard to keep away a suicide bomber. What a dangerous job!”

    Who will do this woman’s job?

  4. shaulking says:

    HILLEL
    Are we going to sit comatose at our computers when our brethren in Yehuda and Shomron are expelled, all the money we raised for batei medreshim and yeshivos in Betar, Kiryat Sefer, Nvei Yaakov, etc.? Just say goodbye with a smile, according to you. Thank gd for protests & insorbnation from soldiers who have heart & soul for klal yisroel.

  5. Nachum Lamm says:

    Hillel, the guards on the buses are not IDF. And even if she was, the question of women in the military, halachically speaking, is far too complicated to be able to use to condemn Israel in one blog post. (The pasuk you quote, by the way, is discussing latrines, not gender.)

  6. Menachem Lipkin says:

    Rabbi Oberstein,

    I’m glad you got to see the “good” side of Israel. Of course there is much more good than you had space to mention.

    You said, “On my trip I saw the “good dati” and the “good chareidi” and believe that they hold the key to the future of Israel as a “Jewish” State.” Next time you’re here look for the “good chiloni” also. You’ll find them everywhere. They are good people and good Jews. They say tehillim, they daven, they keep many mitzvos, they know Tanach. You’d be surprised how “frum” some non-religious people here can be. As much as I agree that the future of Israel as a Jewish state depends on the frum people being “good” we won’t be able to accomplish anything without bringing the good chilonim along with us. Just as we couldn’t have accomplished a fraction of what we already have religiously without, what you pejoratively call the “naivety” of the secular Zionists.

    What you refer to as “naive” others would call idealistic. I guess in some way one has to have a certain level of naivety to accomplish idealistic goals. Without the idealism of the secular Zionists it’s hard to imagine that this country would now be the center of Torah and home to, what will very soon be, the largest Jewish population in the world.

    I think your Yad V’shem experience is an excellent metaphor of the symbiosis that needs to exist for us to move forward. The museum, a magnificently well designed physical structure, having been built by secular people is largely devoid of the spiritual side of the holocaust narrative. A dati tour guide working in concert with the builders is brought in to add that missing spiritual dimension. This is quite nearly the vision of the religious Zionist leaders; the secular and religious each fulfilling their role to create a more perfect whole.

  7. Shlomo says:

    “Of course they will, because we will be the majority.”

    I am afraid that Israeli chareidi society in its current form cannot be sustained once it becomes the numerical majority. It is too dependent on social benefits and exemptions paid for by the economic success of the rest of Israeli society.

    Even today it seems like more and more chareidi youth are going off the derech, more of those “on the derech” act out violently or irresponsibly despite their rabbis’ disapproval, mainstream families are finding it difficult to meet their most basic economic needs, charities which aid chareidim are turning to more desperate and (frankly) occasionally dishonest means out of necessity, and so on. This is the case when chareidim are ~10% of the population; what will happen when they are a majority?

    I too look forward to more mehadrin restaurants, fewer posters of half-naked women (and men) in bus stations, more shiurim to go to, and so on. But so far the chareidim simply have not succeeded in building a society which is viable without massive outside assistance. And at the current pace, pretty soon there will be nobody to provide this assistance.

  8. bagbag says:

    Thank you for this beautiful and encouraging piece.

  9. HESHY BULMAN says:

    To Tommy Lapid and his ilk, the only “good Chareidi” is a dead Chareidi. I wonder how much arm twisting was required to get him to agree to have R’Michoel Ber Weissmandel and Gissi Fleischmann included (The only two religious Jews highlighted in the entire exhibit). I visited there not long ago myself, and found not an iota of improvement in this regard over the old Yad Vashem. No Sir, I do not share your optimism re: this institution. I am sure it is a useful tool for Kiruv, but to me it is one giant travesty. The Heavens themselves cry out over yet one more colossal attempt to divest anything truly meaningful from perhaps the greatest calamity, short of the Churban Bais HaMikdosh, to have befallen K’lall Yisroel.

  10. HILLEL says:

    You ARE too sanguine:

    The reason we are so insecure in Israel is precisely because that girl on the bus–and many more like her–are in the IDF, doing combat duty.

    We have abandoned the concept of “VeHaya MaChaneCha KaDosh.”–a mixed-gender army is the opposite of Kedusha, and HaShem abandons such an army.

    As for the wonderful cooperation and great relationships, wait until Olmert and barak begin to expel the Jews from the West Bank and give their homes to the Arabs. Insbordination has already begun in the IDF.

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3435180,00.html

  11. cvmay says:

    Rabbi Oberstein, Thank you so much for sharing your recent visit to Israel with us readers. I too see the beauty of Eretz Yisroel on each of my visits, “Reah Betuv Yerushayalim” can and should be the mantra of all frum visitors.
    Mutual respect and dignity shown to secular families is the key to the success of the Shuvu school system which is bursting at its seams, while introducing true Torah ideals & values to the next generation of secular society. The abundant of Torah observant young families who have made aliyah, have changed the face of Raanana, Modiim, Betar, Efrat, Ramat Eshkol, Petach Tikvah, Bet Shemesh, etc. in the most positive ways. The ‘GOOD dati’ and ‘GOOD Charadei’ are the future of the Jewish state, they are full of gdliness, respect and love for toras hashem and transmitting it carefully to the hardened Israeli.

  12. Yisroel Moshe says:

    Rabbi Oberstein,

    Thank you for a beautiful article.

    I certainly hope your analysis is correct that ethical Torah living is on a steady rise in Israel and is spreading to the not yet observant.

  13. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “If one reads the blogs, one can certainly find much disheartening,but that is not the whole story”

    “Ureh Btuv Yerushalayim” is a good principle for life in general. Jewish blogs can be negative and cynical, and perhaps the bad outweighs the good in blogging. However, I like the fact that blogs generate transparency in the community, and they can serve as a means of putting pressure on the controlled Charedi media(as well as on the general media) to reach for higher journalistic standards.