I [was recently] in Tel Aviv on an Educator’s tour to see and hear from people in Israel post Oct 7 and to help inform Israel teaching in a time of trauma. After hearing a session about the music of the war (which would have had Rabbi Cowen’s hechsher as it concluded with ‘Moledet’ from Chanan Ben Ari) I went to see a few students who graduated Yavneh in 2010.

It was an experience of overwhelming nachas, not only because they are all successful, articulate, but also because they are passionate Jews and Zionists, living in Israel and making a positive difference.

There was Hona, well known and loved by our Yavneh students. He is working at ‘Unpacked’, the foremost Israel education company in the world. Hona is the one writing Israel curriculum for day schools all over the diaspora. He is knowledgeable, nuanced, creative and passionate.

Keren recently married and her husband was serving in Gaza. Recently married she was so excited to tell me that former Chief Rabbi Lau was mesader kiddushin for her wedding. Keren works in ‘High Tech’ and was able to secure the job before her plane touched down at Ben Gurion. How? Because of Sam, another Yavneh graduate in High Tech who does everything he can to get other people jobs. This is after Sam served in the army, was injured in Tzuk Eitan in 2014, but still served out his entire army service. Just one of the many Giborim of Yavneh, who have served in the IDF.

Josh has only come to Israel recently but rolled up his sleeves to feed thousands of soldiers. Getting to the supermarket at 6am, loading cars and trucks with meat and veggies, Josh became ‘Rosh Mangal’ (head of BBQs) for the Chayalim in an out of Gaza. Sometimes returning home at 3am, Josh would organise and personally cook for hundreds of soldiers at a time. He got the job because he was Aussie, and by default ‘good at BBQ’.

And then there is Nathan. The brains and eloquence behind Government Spokesperson Elon Levy’s daily briefings, which he did while still working a full time job in, you guessed it, High tech.

And we spoke about others from their year level who are in Israel too, Avi Lewis (remember his brilliant blogs?) and Brian Sack (listed in Israeli Forbes top 30 under 30) and Talsi (doctor and soon to have a baby, beshaah tova). All living in Israel.
So here I was, sitting with five Yavneh graduates, all still best mates, all articulate, hard working and dedicated to Medinat and Am Yisrael. Almost 40% of this class of 2010 made Aliya.

On Pesach we tell the story of the Jewish people. We sit around the table and expound on collective memory, drink arba Kossot Geulah, and finish with Kos Eliyahu representing veheveiti – and I will bring you to the land. These Yavneh graduates do not just tell the story of our people, the ARE the story of our people! And every day they are writing the next chapter. They are more than letters in the scroll, they are the scroll. They are foundation and future of the Jewish people.

In the Haggadah we recite Mikra Bikkurim to tell our story in a way that is personal and national, connected both to Eretz Yisrael and Torat Yisrael, being grateful for the fruit we have and hopeful about the fruit yet to come. And so it is with our Yavneh students and Yavneh graduates. We should be (and I am) so proud of our kids who are learning Torah, living Torah, loving Israel and living in Israel.

May we all continue to have nachas from our students, past, present and future.

Post Script:
[Saturday 13 April 2024] night I didn’t sleep much as Iran tried with all their might and power to intimidate, damage, maim and break Israel. And thank G-d it was a colossal failure! Aside from school being cancelled, Israel was back to its normal, bustling self within hours. Even the illegal parkers didn’t get reprieve with a parking ticket officer doing the rounds at 8am the following morning.

The resilience of the Jewish people can be attributed to our strong sense of belonging and connection, anchored in shared, timeless values. Jewish people seek what they can give and contribute and spring into action even before being asked. Being in Israel has been affirming and invigorating with palpable unity and hope at every turn.

Leshana Habaah Biyerushalayim Habnuya! (without any foreign light shows in the sky)