The Land Flowing with Milk, Honey… and Yavnehrians by Rabbi Chaim Cowen – Head of Jewish Studies

The Land Flowing with Milk, Honey… and Yavnehrians by Rabbi Chaim Cowen – Head of Jewish Studies

Presently, I am spending time in Israel, living in leafy Katamon and enjoying spending my days engrossed in research, exploring the intersection between halakha and secular law. My aspiration is that these studies will help the Melbourne community have the confidence to litigate their commercial disputes at a Beth Din who are able to apply Jewish law with a sensitivity to the secular law context, and with an integrity that inspires trust and confidence.

One of the great delights of living in the Holy Land are the many Yavneh alumni I encounter – be it at shuk Machane Yehudah, at one of the random shuls I frequent, walking home on a Friday night, at a concert, on a bus, on a jog or anywhere else for that matter. As enjoyable as these chance meetings may be, they come nothing near the wonderful, planned experience in which I was able to meet up with 28 of our 2022 alumni who came from near and far last Monday night for a dinner and catchup. Our original choice of location was sufficient for the 15 who we thought would make it, but as the familiar faces started to trickle in, we soon realised that we were heading for almost double the amount of souls than we had anticipated!

As these classmates ferociously caught up with one another – they had come from a wide range of programs which were based across the country – we made our way through the shuk and out to Rechov Agrippas in search of a venue that could handle an motley crew of almost thirty. We explored the vibrant food scene, while learning of many diverse experiences (Carlia Slade shared her’s entirely in a fluent Hebrew) and looking out for the right bite. At last, Liam Grinberg caught the eye of a shwarma vendor with whom he had made acquaintance and the mutual agreement to this traditional – and filling – choice was palpable throughout the group. The vendor felt he had hit the jackpot and called a co-worker from the back room with whom he whipped up shawarma after shwarma with an awe-inspiring efficiency. Shwarmas in hand, we journeyed to the semi-circular steps that line the walkway where Agrippas meets King George (many intersections here conjure interesting meetings of personalities, previously denied by time and space) where we sat, reminisced, caught-up, shared divrei torah, davened maariv and heard an inspirational story from Paca. Students mingled late into the night, far later than I was willing to stay up – and I have to say, it was lovely to not take the roll, nor to have to wait until the last parent arrived to pick them up.

A flurry of messages came in the next day, sharing how enjoyable the experience had been for all those involved. And I was very thankful too – thankful to have the friendship of this wonderful group of young adults who exude such positivity and love for Yiddishkeit, Israel, and one another. Ilan Davis also deserves a special shout out for being my contact in rallying the troops.

Thinking that that was that, I was uplifted on Friday morning as I headed from my apartment at 6am to the starting line of the Jerusalem marathon, to find a team of these very same students jiggling on the spot ready to broach varying distances, running the tortious hills (which come with compensatory glorious views) of this magical city. Many were doing the half marathon and some were doing the 10km and the 5km. While it was definitely a very taxing run, there was something wonderful and inspiring about getting a pat on the back at the 9km mark and turning to see Izak Bierenkrant (Bizza) smiling graciously as he effortlessly overtook me.

Israel may be the country flowing with milk and honey, but it is also flowing with Yavnehrians – proud and passionate about being a part of our precious people in this propitious land.