The month of Shvat and its New Year for Trees reminds us every year that trees are only held in place through the strength of their deep roots. Anyone who learns Torah makes his roots deeper. Anyone who teaches Torah develops even deeper roots, and they become intertwined with the roots of their students.
I congratulate the Panim El Panim organization for teaching our holy Torah to the Jewish people, helping them to find their roots. From these same roots, may we soon see the sprouting of the redemption of the Jewish people.
The desire to plant trees is driven by a desire to benefit future generations.
(From the writings of Rav Kook on the month of Shvat)
As Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook zt”l revealed, as part of our desire for our own personal future, we also have a hidden desire to help the next generation. At Panim El Panim, through our educational activities, we try to clarify and find what is good and meaningful in everything, including the good intentions that are hidden within seemingly small and private actions.
We are happy to report that our Army division has recently started an important new program, arranging telephone learning partners for serving soldiers and national service volunteers. Already 30 pairs have signed up to learn together, either every day or every week. We expect that there will be hundreds of regular learning partnerships in place by the end of this year. We would love for you to share this information among your friends in Israel and help us to organize more learning partnerships.
Our student and young people division has started a nationwide program to bring together young people and seniors for a joint learning session on Jewish identity. At the same time, our high schools department has started a pilot program for youth in local community centers.
This is all happening alongside with the expansion of our fundraising infrastructure and the development of new collaborations with various government offices.
Wishing you a fruitful and successful winter!
The Generation of Panim El Panim,
For 2,000 years of exile, like embryos in the womb
For 500 years, the labor pains of a new beginning
Now 100 years of Zionism – rebirth and elevation
Behold, a nation was reborn, with a new beating heart,
Emerging like a child with a pure soul,
To be a Zionist, a farmer, a builder, with strength like steel.
Filled with natural vitality and freedom,
But with no self-awareness, without which there is no freedom.
So G-d brought us to a stage of adolescence.
Suddenly, there was no drive to become a warrior or a farmer,
"Post-Zionist" meant no certainty, everything was “Maybe….”,
Only questions, nagging for answers, a permanent weariness.
Until the days of Gush Katif and the Second Lebanon War.
Since then, the nagging has stopped; in our generation something is stirring:
The people are becoming adults, opening to hearing a deeper reality:
A new era begins: the era of “face-to-face” openness,
Searching for Jewish direction, wanting to accept and internalize.
Thirsty to engage with life, with enlightenment.
This new maturity (as Rav Kook taught) requires love and faith
It approaches confidently, yet with humility, speaking the truth of Torah,
Elevating understanding and encouraging engagement with national life.
Our five priorities: Love, Faith, Vigor, Inner Peace, and Communication:
Teaching values and self-awareness in our schools; a fighting spirit in our army,
On kibbutzim: how to be patriotic; to students: how to build life with love.
Classes, workshops, learning partnerships, and new literature!
As Amos predicted: a time of hunger and thirst,
Not for bread and water, but for a pure Torah,
For the true word of God, accepting no substitute.
We will not bring the Torah down to the level of the people,
But in this glorious generation, let us climb up to the truth of Torah.
To do so, we must first embrace Torah as our ideal!
This is today’s rallying cry: join with your brothers
Create a new revival – the Jewish People lives!
Let us be strong and courageous! Choose life!
Col. (res.) Geva Rapp
Learning Partnerships in the Army
In recent months, our IDF division has launched a program of telephone learning partnerships, with the goal of expanding Torah learning in the army. We are keen to help the graduates of high schools and army preparation programs who are thirsty for inspiration during this challenging time in their lives. Any religious or traditional soldier who is interested is matched up with a yeshiva student or Rav to learn with whenever they can.
This program is already succeeding beyond our expectations! Most of these partners are managing to learn together on a daily basis, despite the fact that many soldiers, especially in combat roles, have very limited time. They can pick what to study from a choice of tracks: Halacha, Emunah, Tenach, Mishnah, Gemara or Mussar.
This is just the start! We can already see that this growing project will require a system of management and suitable supervision. We are grateful for our success to date and pray for the continued success of this and our programs.
For the past three years, we have organized an inter-generational learning program for students and seniors in Tel Aviv, as part of our Midreshet Nitzanim learning curriculum.
This year, following positive feedback from the project, we have decided to expand its scope and operate the program in public spaces such as community centers. We have started holding meetings in Karmiel, with plans to expand to other cities.
These meetings bring together students and young people in their 30s with senior citizens. They meet once each week for a few hours to learn together about Judaism and their shared heritage.
This deep and experiential learning framework creates opportunities for every participant to open their heart and to connect with their Jewish identity.
Jewish Identity Weekend for Midreshet Lahav Staff
Midreshet Lahav is a Panim El Panim program that sends counselors into secular high schools around Israel to teach about Jewish issues and ethics. The counselors who teach on this program came together to enjoy a weekend program in Ofra, organized by ZEHUT – a network of 32 associations that work in schools to strengthen Jewish identity under the auspices of the Ministry of Education.
The event started on Thursday with sessions for the counselors from the various organizations that work in high schools, around the theme of Identity. The participants were then joined for Shabbat by their families.
The program was broad and varied. It was very helpful and worthwhile to meet and get to know the other organizations working in the same field. This was the first time that Midreshet Lahav counselors who work on different programs had gathered to spend Shabbat together. It was also a unique opportunity to involve their wives and families in the project, enabling them to hear first-hand about the content and impact of their activities.
We all enjoyed the atmosphere of unity, inspiration and friendship, which gave us renewed enthusiasm to continue with our educational activities!
New Website and Movie about Panim El Panim
We are fortunate to have launched our new website – currently only in English – at www.panimelpanim.org - together with a new video that explains the activities of our organization – you are invited to check it out!
Last month, we organized a fundraising event in the Hendon community in London. It was attended by dozens of people, including a number of prominent local entrepreneurs. The event was organized by our representative Tali Geller together with Col. (Res.) Geva Rapp. During the evening, a young female soldier spoke about the major impact that our organization has had on her life. We also met with a number of important Rabbis and community leaders in London. It is hoped that this successful start will open the doors to further expansion, introducing our work to more supporters in the UK.
Experiencing Shabbat in the Field
Described by a Rabbi from the Panim El Panim IDF division.
One Shabbat last September, I was fortunate to be assigned to organize a Shabbat program for an elite unit on maneuvers in Southern Israel. The landscape was covered in a layer of dust – we really understood how it felt to live in the desert!
There were 40 soldiers in the unit including the staff. They greeted me warmly, and their attitude was positive from the start. After the evening service they had organized a grand Shabbat evening meal. At the start of the meal, one of the officers sitting next to me told me that he planned to pester me with questions about Jewish family life, since he was recently married and experiencing difficulties at home because of his intense army commitments. I arranged to sit with him on Shabbat afternoon to help him by discussing his concerns.
On Shabbat morning we managed to organize a minyan and I spoke about the concept of keeping the camp holy – a commandment from that week’s Torah portion Ki Tetze. After the Kiddush, while struggling to find enough shade to protect us from the blazing sun, I spoke with the group for over two hours about the characteristics of a Jewish fighter, discussing some of the issues that I had experienced during my own military service.
It was a very intense Shabbat, packed with conversations with the group and with individuals. After Shabbat, I thanked them all warmly and explained how privileged I felt to have spent Shabbat with them. They also thanked me. What a wonderful nation!