Bnei Akiva In A Nutshell

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Resource Type: Peula in: Engels
Age: 4-12
Group Size: 5-30
Estimated Time: 90 minutes

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Resource Goal

Aleph: To learn as to what Bnei Akiva is all about! To learn about the semel and its significance. To understand what exactly is Torah veAvodah?

Bet: To understand what exactly is Torah veAvodah?

Required Props & Materials


  • Write out words to Yad Achim
  • Semel Jigsaw


  • Yad Ahim Puzzle
  • Draw out various BA related symbols i.e. crotcheted kippa, semel, aniva, torah, spade, sour sticks, map of Israel, Daniel Sueke etc

Resource Contents

Bnei Akiva in a Nutshell

-Mi Anachnu -?- Who are we-

Bnei Akiva is the world's largest religious Zionist youth movement, active all over the world, with over 50,000 members. Note, were not a mere organisation which tends to be quite static and stagnant, but are a movement which is dynamic, moving with the times and responding to us and our present situation.

Bnei Akiva believes that through religious commitment and work on the Land of Israel, Jewish youth can achieve fulfilment and self-realisation in an age of turmoil and unrest.

It must be stated from the outset that it is very difficult to give an accurate picture of the origins of the Bnei Akiva movement, either in this or other countries. Bnei Akiva was founded in Israel in 1929, and around that time, possibly a little earlier, groups existed in Poland and other Eastern European countries under the names Hashomer Hadati and Brit Hanoar. In July 1941 a group of people met in Woburn House, the then centre of Anglo-Jewish life in London, and decided to form a nationwide movement called Bnei Akiva. However, as early as 1939, groups of religious boys and girls were meeting in various parts of London under the name Bnei Akiva.

It is clear that the origins of our movement, and in fact its destiny, are bound up very closely with the history of the religious Zionist movement as a whole. Mizrachi, the first party within the Zionist movement, was a very influential force in Europe and many of the leading early Zionists were orthodox Jews and Rabbanim. With the founding of Hapoel Hamizrachi in 1921, the Zionist movement received official recognition of the fact that there could be a synthesis between Labour and torah. It was obvious that such an ideal had to be expressed within a youth movement of Hapoel Hamizrachi. The year 1955 saw another historic date with the merger of Mizrachi and Hapoel Hamizrachi and the natural consequence that Bnei Akiva became the youth movement of this merged adult movement.

[Bnei Akiva began its activities in the
UK in 1939 with its first summer camps taking place in 1942. The movement's main aim is the promotion of Religious Chalutzik Aliyah and, for over fifty years, Bnei Akiva's record in this sphere has been unrivalled by any other Zionist youth movement.]

-Meh Chayenu -?- What is our (way of) life-

How should we live our lives. This is summed up in our response Torah veAvodah, which was coined by a geezer called Shmuel Chayim Landau (known as Shachal for obvious reasons!)- who was an early religious zionist in the 1920s. It describes the way of living to which we aspire, namely to be a committed religious Jew with all the obligations that entails, and yet to live a full and positive life in the wider world, contributing to society in a substantial way.

The Torah bit is obviously clearly defined, ie. Living 100% according to Halacha, but the Avoda is less easily definable! For Shachal, as far as I understand, Avoda means any tyope of work which benefits Israel. So for his times, it meant building up the land (by draining the swamps etc.) and bringing money into the land- so a national renaissance of the Jewish people could occur. However he does not define Avodah specifically in agricultural terms, so for all you cynics who say kibbutzim and thus Torah veAvodah are outdated think again. Instead Shachal refers to anything which builds up Israel in its widest possible sense, physically, spiritually and economically.

The physical swamps of Israel may have been drained, however the metaphorical swamps still remain or are still being created- and have to be dealt with accordingly.

Mah Sismatenu -?- What is our motto

The answer: the people of
Israel, living in the land of Israel, all according to the Torah of Israel, directly explains the higher cause. With the rebirth of Zionism it was seen once again that the concept of Am, peoplehood, can only be truly fulfilled if it lives in Eretz Yisrael. For this to be religious, this must all be happening within the framework of the Torah, which talks about the mitzvah of living in Israel anyway.

But now- and this is where it all gets mind-blowing!! think back to the last time when am, eretz and Torah were all combined in this way It appears to be in the time of the Temples! So this is exactly what we are aiming towards when we scream out our responses in mifkad- a return to Temple times, which will bring with it the Mashiach and Geulah.

The Semel

The wheat gains its place on the Semel of Bnei Akiva as part of the Sheva Minim, and it also represents the agricultural side of Bnei Akiva's ideology of Torah Va'avodah. The olive branch represents the peace that we hope all Jews will live together by. The sythe and fork represent the tools used to work the Land of Israel. The luchot represents the Torah. This is the book by which the Jewish religion is based and is governed by. The Semel has on it a Tav and Ayin, standing fro Torah and Avodah. To live in the land of Israel requires knowledge of the Torah and a knowledge of working the land.

All these symbols are enclosed in the wrapping of Bnei Akiva, literally meaning the Children of Akiva. This is referring to Rabbi Akiva who lived at the time of the destruction of the second temple (70 CE). We call ourselves by his name because of his actions and love of Torah.

Yad Achim

The movement anthem is one of the symbolic devices within Bnei Akiva. It was composed by Rabbi Moshe Zvi Nerya (originally known as Chaver Minkin). He was at one stage active in the Hallacha of Bnei Akiva, and composed the movement anthem during Chol Hamoed Succot 5692 (1932) at a gathering of Madrichim in Kfar Saba. The anthem soon spread to become one of the movements undoubted symbols. Although the words changed somewhat, and in the beginning of the 1950s the tune was also changed. No one can imagine a movement celebration without the singing of the anthem.

A brotherly hand is stretched out to you, O beloved youth,
Gather yourselves around our flag.
The star of the Torah shall shine for you,
Your path shall be one of labour.
With a sturdy heart, with the help of G-d, we will go up,
Forward, Bnei Akiva, forward to the top!
This homeland, the holy Land of our fathers,
We have inherited from the mighty hand of Jacob.
Our minds are steeped in her Torah,
Our hands are immersed in her soil.
With a sturdy heart, with the help of G-d, we will go up,
Forward, Bnei Akiva, forward to the top!

Bnei Akiva and Rabbi Akiva
As the name translates - "the children of Akiva", the idea of Bnei Akiva relates directly to the story of Rabbi Akiva. At the age of 40 years old, after growing up tending flock, he changed his ways and decided that he needed to find out the essence of the Jewish faith.

The story is told of how it happened: One day while attending to his flock, he noticed a rock onto which droplets of water kept dripping. He thought that if something as soft as water can penetrate this solid rock and cause it to erode, so can the Torah penetrate into me - a shepherd who at this time was solid in his ways. Thus we strive to be like Rabbi Akiva for his three qualities: (a) his love of Hashem, his devotion to the Torah and his ultimate death at Kiddush Hashem (having been killed by the Romans), (b) his love of Israel and his fight for its independence, (c) his love of labour and his respect for it, remembering always his early life

- A good opportunity to teach (and learn) Yad Achim (the proper words). Write out the words in big and practice singing them. You can turn this into a inter-kvutzot competition for the whole sviva i.e. The kvutza who best sings yad achim at mifkad, wins a prize
- Ladders: Using the story of the creation of Bnei Akiva.
- Semel Jigsaw: Draw a massive semel. Cut up into jigsaw pieces, and create a fun race to piece together the semel. For an added twist- they can only receive a clue as to the whereabouts of each hidden jigsaw piece on the correct answering of a BA related question

- Yad-Achim puzzle: write out the words to yad achim on a mass piece of paper. Cut the words out, for the chanichim, to compete to put them back together in the correct order!
- Symbol importance: draw/write out various symbols/terms that are prevalent within the movement (i.e. crotcheted kippa, semel, aniva, torah, spade, sour sticks, map of Israel, Daniel Sueke etc) The challenge is for the chanichim to then create their own semel, that symbolises Bnei Akiva for them. You can then initiate a discussion on the semel, and its relevance today.
You can then use the symbols, for the chans. to order them into their importance within the movement.

Related Resources can be found under:
» Alles > Bnei Akiva > Over Bne Akiva
» Alles > Bnei Akiva > Normaal
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