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70 Years And Growing

Chaverim came from every city, town, religious Kibbutz and settlement in Israel. They came from all over the USA and Canada. They came to Jerusalem to celebrate and to reestablish ties with friends who will never be forgotten. They came to Jerusalem’s International Convention Center (Binyanei HaUma) to honor the contributions of former members of Bnei
Akiva to Israel’s growth. They came to reminisce and to remember.

Bnei Akiva, for most of us, was not just a youth organization. It was a way of life. It was what kept us focused on religion. It was what encouraged us to settle in Israel. It was our second home and often our first home. It was what kept us sane in our teenage years and it channeled our energies into positive and constructive directions. It was Camp Moshava, which filled our summers with fantastic activity. It was lessons in leadership as we grew into the role of
managing the organization. For many years it was our whole life.

There is no other way to explain the phenomenon of some 2,500 Israeli parents “abandoning” their children and grandchildren during the most intensive week of Bnei Akiva activity (the end of Chodesh Irgun) to come to Jerusalem for the reunion. There is no other way to explain the phenomenon of some 300 Chaverim who flew to Israel for the weekend from North America for the reunion. There is no other way to explain the happiness and tremendous feelings of
joy that were expressed and that stayed with us for many days after the event. We were on a high, and no foreign substances were involved. The feelings were so intense and the demands that we not wait another 10 years for the next reunion were expressed so often, that the reunion co-chairman, Nasan Friedman, announced on Shabbat that we are planning already
for the 75th and will not wait until the 80th anniversary.

Over the years, Bnei Akiva has encouraged thousands of its members to “go up” and to settle in Israel. The men and women, former Chaverim and Chaverot, have contributed to many fields, including: industry, the health system, political parties, the economy, law, education, Gemilut Chassadim and religious institutions, and the defense establishment. These contributions were honored at the reunion.

The evening began with a display of hundreds of pictures, documents, pamphlets, shirts, pins and other memorabilia saved with loving care by Chaverim over the past 70 years and carefully mounted by Chana Spiegelman and her volunteers into a beautiful display. Shanen Werber arranged for photography, news coverage and hotel reservations and Ilan Roth
arranged for many vendors to sell their goods.

Nasan Friedman and Itchie Fuchs were the co-chairmen of the event and Steve Frankel was the heart and soul behind the scenes, working hundreds of hours to coordinate all of the activities and volunteers. Kadish and Batzion Goldberg, Ruchie Avital and Moish Goldberg were the stars of the show that was very professionally produced by Nati Malchi. The show also included the Bnei Akiva singers, a chorus of old-timers and a video presentation of scenes from the past gleamed from old 8mm movies and some more modern video tapes of Camp Moshava, Hachshara and videotaped interviews with several Chaverim. I prepared the journal (with the editing help of my wife, Barbara) and kept everyone updated via the Internet.

Yoske Shapiro, one of only three speakers, spoke of the importance of Aliyah and asked that you urge your children to come and then follow them. Marc Belzberg, chairman of Board of Governors of World Bnei Akiva, spoke of the scope and depth of the wonderful work that Bnei Akiva does. Rabbi Chaim Druckman, a former Shaliach, read the prayer for the
State of Israel. Rabbi Yisroel Weiss, the Chief Rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), read the prayer for the welfare of Israeli soldiers and spoke of how in the IDF they work to develop the entire person, to accept every Jew and forge one Jewish nation.

A highlight of the show was a very touching duet by the Goldbergs praising their children in the IDF, accompanied by a beautiful video presentation of the various branches of the Defense Forces. The most poignant moment was when some 3,000 people stood up and sang the Bnei Akiva anthem “Yad Achim,” followed by Hatikvah.

For Friday morning, Moish Goldberg had organized a series of Shiurim featuring former Bnei
Akiva Chaverim, including: Rabbi Eliezer Waldman, Rabbi Chaim Brovender, Rabbi Aharon Rakefet, Rabbi Aryeh Weiss, Rabbi Ari Chwat, Rabbi David Bigmen, Avraham Stein, Rochel Levemore and Leah Abramowitz.

In many hotels in Jerusalem there were groups of Bnei Akivaniks spending Shabbat together. Ninety members of Shevet Moriah, for example, gathered in the Ariel Hotel and, according to Mindy Frankel, had the most exciting and uplifting Shabbat ever. From all of the hotels, we walked to the Kotel for Friday night Tefilla and gathered at Heichal Shlomo for Shabbat
morning. On Saturday night we gathered for a solidarity Melave Malka at the recently bombed Cafe Hillel to declare that terror will not deter us. Rabbi Benny Elon, Minister of Tourism, joined us and mentioned that his mother-in-law was a former Hashomer Hadati Chavera and he spoke of the wonderful influence that Bnei Akiva has on youngsters around the world. It was a weekend not to be forgotten.

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