The Founding Of Bnei Akiva
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To discuss the founding of Bnei Akiva and define the goals of Bnei Akiva as a movement.
Bnei Akiva was formed by the religious chalutzim for themselves and to pass on the message of religious Zionism and Torah V'Avoda to others. The characteristics of their unique ideology included:
strong belief of Eretz Yisrael as an integral part of Judaism without which the Jewish nation cannot be complete
Pioneering spirit and willing to endure physical discomfort in order to accomplish a goal
Commitment to fight for an independent Jewish State
Love for the Jewish people
Commitment to stand up for their beliefs and acting upon those beliefs.
Commitment to the ideals of Torah V'Avoda
Discuss the formation of Bnei Akiva in the context of its' being founded by the religious chalutzim
Discuss and fill in the enclosed form
The founding of Bnei Akiva
The year is 1929. You have been asked to help the religious chalutzim form a new youth movement called Bnei Akiva.
Bnei Akiva should believe in:
Bnei Akiva should combine:
Bnei Akiva should encourage its' members to:
To reach its goals, Bnei Akiva activities should include
List the names of the people who filled in the form ___________________________________
The Founding of Bnei Akiva
The idea of founding a religious youth movement originated over 60 years ago, when the Religious Labor Movement in Eretz Yisrael was struggling for its existence and could barely claim any success in its practical activities. All there was to present was an ideal.
There was real daring, therefore, in the decision of the twenty youngsters, aged 16 to 17, who met in Jerusalem on the 24th of Adar, 5689 (1929) to found a youth movement which would combine the ideal of building Eretz Yisrael with a life of Torah. They named their organization "Bnei Akiva" after the great Talmudic sage who combined scholarship with an active life dedicated to his people and country.
The new organization, which was small and lacking both in means and in a definite line of action, encountered a hostile environment which belittled it from all sides. But the members continued to meet and function.
Boys and girls, attracted by the ideal, joined Bnei Akiva and slowly the organizational structure evolved. Branches were organized in various cities and villages throughout the country. The movement started to take on a color all its own. But the routine life in each branch, even if it was socially and religiously satisfying, was felt to be inadequate. It was deemed with all youthful sincerity that a life of Torah and labor should be realized and not merely preached. Consequently, in the summer of 1931, 30 members pitched their tents on the soil of Kfar Avraham, near Petach Tikva, and established a kvutza.
From the very outset this group was beset with problems of unemployment. The difficulties notwithstanding it would send many members to work as leaders in the various branches of the movement. But the rapidly deteriorating economic situation proved too much for the kvutza and its members reached the point where they had no source of income. Moreover, the support from within Bnei Akiva slackened and the inevitable result was that the group disbanded in 1932.
Meanwhile the youth movement was spreading out and in 1934 there were already six chapters with 250 members. It was realized that the organization was becoming too large to remain in an amorphous state without central direction. It was decided, therefore, to convene all the scattered branches and to form a national organization. This convention, in 1936, was a turning point in the history of Bnei Akiva. A national executive was chosen and it was decided to issue a periodical to deal with the problems of organization, education, and leadership. As of 1936, Zraim ("seeds") started publication, and has served ever since as the faithful echo of the organized religious youth in Israel.
Yet ideologically the path was not certain. Many members who remembered the failure of the Kfar Avraham group in 1932 insisted that Bnei Akiva should diffuse its goal and educate Jews for community service in various capacities: teachers, urban workers, public servants, and chalutzim. There were others, however, who insisted that the Kfar Avraham group had failed because the time then was not ripe for chalutziut but that in light of the growth of the organization an exclusive program of pioneering should definitely succeed in the future.
In the winter of 1938 a training kvutsa was founded in Kfar Gideon in the Valley of Yizrael. In spite of the Arab riots and difficult living conditions, a new spirit reigned there which spread to the entire organization. A strong will and joy of creation characterized the beginnings of the group in Kfar Gideon and left its' mark on the future development of Bnei Akiva. This 'garin' (a pioneer group in training; literally nucleus) which was to become known as "Alumim", set the pioneering course which the masses of the organization was to follow.
At about that time it was also decided to intensify the study of Torah in the organization. At first this was done by obligating every member to study a chapter of the Bible every day. However, the members themselves felt that this alone would not fulfill the condition of a life of Torah and hence the slogan "Bnei Akiva - to the yeshiva" arose. Throughout the country in all branches of our organization, special circles for the study of Talmud were formed. In 1940 the members of these study circles went to Kfar Haroeh and opened their own yeshiva.
It was no ordinary yeshiva. Their living quarters were storage lifts, their sustenance was "bread by measure", while their classroom was open to the weather. But the students diligently formed an atmosphere which gradually created the unique character of the Bnei Akiva Yeshiva. Until this day the yeshiva is a self-governing community, the students themselves receiving all new members and together with their teachers, determining the way of life in the institution.
But the preoccupation with study did not interfere with pioneering. Instead, scholarship complemented chalutziut. As the members reached the age of 18, they formed "garinim", each consisting of 30-50 persons. The first garinim to emerge from the movement joined Alumim. This group, after nine years of training, established Kvutzat Sa'ad in the Negev, the same settlement that fought so bravely in the War of Liberation against the Egyptians.
In 1945 a group made up of garinim of younger members set out for mountainous Galil to settle isolated Birya When they began to erect their first shacks they encountered forces of the British army which searched them for arms and found their Hagana weapons. The British arrested a number of the settlers and tore down the buildings. "Birya" became a rallying cry throughout the country in those rigorous days of the White Paper, and the Jewish youth of Eretz Yisrael converged on the spot by the thousands and established the settlement anew.
The remainder of the Birya garin proceeded to the Hills of Hebron and founded Ein Tzurim in the Etzion Bloc. Ein Tzurim was destroyed by the Arab Legion in the War of Liberation and its members were interned for almost a year in a prisoner-of -war camp in Trans-Jordan. After their release the youngsters resettled in the Southern Plain of the country. Today, they have one of the most developed settlements in the region.
Thus the religious youth that was brought up in Bnei Akiva and educated in its yeshivot succeeded in the rocky soil of the Hills of Hebron, in the wastes of the Negev, and set an example for bravery in the fight of the Jewish people for its independence.
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