Dei'ah Vedibur - Information &

A Window into the Chareidi World

22 Adar 5766 - March 22, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

The Many Against the Few
Bais Yaakov — From a Tender Seedling to a Fruitful Tree

By Yehudit Golan

Part VI

Going out to the Transit Camps

Registration took place in cities and towns throughout the country. Through the Yeshivah Committee, teachers were even sent to Tiberias, Tsefat, Nahariya and other cities where they registered students for schools belonging to Chinuch Atzmai, the fourth sector of education. For a week, they went door to door according to a list that was supplied to them before by a friend of the activists. The immigrants merited to see chareidi people, young girls modestly dressed, which was a refreshing change from the secular activists that they had had enough of seeing.

"We felt as if we were walking in the path of Soroh Shenirer. She, too, had sent young girls to distant towns where there were Maskilim, Bundists and Communists. Today, I wonder how could she have sent young girls to such isolated places? It's true that there was the local rabbi who gave moral strength and backing. But it seems like it was a time of action. We also registered the students at the behest of the rabbis who said that there was no other choice and we have to go out. And even so, whole communities were erased from Israel."

Going out to the transit camps was also undertaken after consulting with gedolei hador. Three students who were about to finish their studies in the seminary were sent to the Ein Shemer Transit Camp and three others to the one in Rosh HaAyin. The pretext was to learn Hebrew with the immigrant children but the goal was to connect with the mothers and to serve as a constant reminder that in Israel, too, there is spiritual life, and Torah and mitzvos are valid here just like abroad.

Rav Lieberman, who completely backed up the teachers he sent, came after two or three weeks to give them support and to hear how the work was going there. He counseled them how to explain to the immigrants the difference between the Torah- true workers and the secular administrators. "He cautiously told them to say that there are religious people and non- religious people." That kind of expression isn't dangerous and even if someone from the Jewish agency heard it, they couldn't be angry or vengeful. In fact, secular clerks from the Jewish Agency patroled behind the classes to make sure that the teachers were teaching Hebrew reading and writing only.

"Hagaon R' Shimon Baadani, who in those days was a student at the Ponevizh Yeshiva, was our liaison with Maran the Chazon Ish," recalls Mrs. H, one of those emissaries. "He would cover himself with a blanket when he arrived at the camp and thus he'd look like one of the immigrants and wouldn't be recognized by any of the guards as a chareidi activist. R' Baadani would go from tent to tent, giving encouragement to the immigrants and saying to them: 'See, I'm also Yemenite and you see that I keep Torah and mitzvos!' Through him, Maran, the Chazon Ish led us, as well as R' Eidelman, who invented many different excuses in order to meet with the mothers at night and to teach them about Jewish life in Eretz Yisroel.

In order to get rid of the secular counselor who was put with us in the hut, we would make up excuses like the need to wish Mazel Tov for a bris, wedding or another simchah and we would sneak out of there for some clandestine activity."

In the evening, the chareidi teachers would circulate among the tents of the transit camp and convince the innocent parents that even here in the Promised Land, they had to continue keeping Torah. They also spoke to the Mori — the religious authority of the immigrants, about the need to strengthen the Yemenites in observing religion.

"We also had an interesting suggestion whose goal was to prove to the olim that spiritual life had not disappeared even in the secular State of Israel. We offered them bus fare to travel to nearby Petach Tikvah where Hagaon R' Zev Eidelman lived with his wife Chana. The righteous couple took upon themselves the important task to tour with the Yemenite immigrants among the synagogues and yeshivahs in the area and to show them religious life."

The decline in the surrounding religious life around was terrifying. The cutting off of peyos, the desecration of Shabbos, conversion. Aldema, one of the camp heads, was successful in sneakily obtaining the trust of the immigrants when he donated a paroches to the shul but afterwards he formed a line for cutting off their peyos. On Rosh Hashonoh, so the immigrants in Ein Shemer related, the youth were taken to the fields so that they could see how the farmers ploughed and planted.

Not Getting into Routine

Even with their small strength, these pioneer teachers tried in some way to stem the terrible tide. "The camp's administration decided to erect a proper school," says S, "but before that, they announced registration in which the immigrants themselves chose the educational branch where they wanted to send their children. The teachers were forbidden to interfere in these proceedings or to use any propaganda for one branch or another. And then the teachers from Bais Yaakov heard about a secular school principal who had arrived there, gathered the immigrants together and lectured to them. The man said dramatically, 'We brought you to the country, we set up settlements, we did everything for you. If you want us to continue helping you, say that you are only interested in attending our school.'

"When we heard about this propaganda, we also decided to speak up. I stood in front of a group of parents that gathered and appealed to them: 'What happened in Yemen? You kept Shabbos and Kosher. Is it appropriate to come to the Holy Land and here not keep Shabbos? Do you want your children to keep Torah? Say that you are only interested in the education of Agudas Yisroel (the fourth branch).' While I was talking, I noticed that the camp's manager arrived but I wasn't afraid.

"I continued speaking to the immigrants. After a short time, he called me aside and wanted to know the meaning of this propaganda. I told him about the secular school principal who had lectured there the previous day. The transit camp manager denied this and even invited to me to clarify the matter at their Tel Aviv office. I went to Tel Aviv and made my claim. They refused to believe me but said they would investigate the matter and sent me back to the camp. The manager's disappointment was evident on his face when he saw me coming. He was hoping I'd be fired.

When at last registration for school took place, there were already no teachers in the camp. It seemed that the threats to the immigrants' livelihood had done their job.

Another plan that was suggested was to put the youth in a separate camp where they would merit a secular 'education' devoid of any religious influence. The Bais Yaakov teachers well understood the intentions behind the innocent plan and even knew that the parents wouldn't agree to give up their children but waited for the right time to act. This wasn't long in coming.

One day, it was circulated among the camp's youth that the first step in being accepted to the youth camp would be an Oneg Shabbat party on Friday night and both teenage boys and girls were invited. "When I found out about the party, I approached the camp manager," recalls S., "and I asked him how he was giving a mixed party for the immigrants when they keep such stringent separation that even weddings took place in one place for women and at a distance, for men? The manager answered coldly that even in Israel, religious people have mixed parties and that there was no reason to be extreme. I answered him that he had to act according to the Yemenite tradition, but he claimed that they had to get used to the reality of another kind of life and ended the conversation."

That afternoon, the Bais Yaakov teachers went to visit the Yemenite tents and by word of mouth, they passed on the message of the party intended for Friday night and told them to go and see it for themselves. The girls didn't mention the problem about the party. They only made sure that the parents' curiosity was aroused. And in fact, during the party, the children were told to sit together. Some of the girls insisted on sitting separately but mixed singing began. The parents, who up until that point had waited outside quietly, stormed in angrily. They each dragged away their own children and the party was over. The moral was well learned. The administration saw that the plan to have a separate youth camp had little chance of success.

"We went to teach in Ein Shemer and were exhausted from the weight of the work. Rav Lieberman arrived with Rav Levin and said to us, 'Don't get into a rut; don't get bogged down by routine. You are emissaries! Every day you must do, work, get closer and remain fresh.' This became our life: to strive for perfection and greatness, to work tirelessly and remain fresh."


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