Saturday, January 28, 2023

This past Thursday night, the religious boys gap-year program Ruach HaNegev hosted a hachnasat sefer Torah in their beit midrash. The students were joined by teachers and families from the Retamim community to celebrate this special occasion.

The sefer Torah completed its journey to Israel from California as part of a very special sefer Torah rededication project led by the Istrin family of Los Angeles. Because of its innovative and inspirational approach, Ruach HaNegev was chosen to be the first rededication Torah to be brought to Israel.

“This was the most inspiring night of the year,” said one of the students at the end of the night. The incredible simcha of bringing a sefer Torah to the Ruach HaNegev beit midrash was clearly seen on the faces of the students, alumni and teachers who joined in the celebration. After a lively procession, the Torah was placed in the Aron Kodesh that was designed and built from scratch by two of the shana bet (second year) students.

Ruach HaNegev was established in 2021 by Etan Zivan, an oleh since 2008 and an IDF veteran, originally from upstate New York. Ruach HaNegev’s curriculum consists of half-day Torah studies and half-day volunteer community service throughout the Negev. The unique program allows students to live in a growth-oriented religious environment that also provides a dynamic and active schedule that reaches well beyond the beit midrash. The Retamim community has been an active participant in the successful development of the program, adopting students, volunteering to lead extracurricular activities, and even joining the learning.

“The words we chose to put on the Aron Kodesh were said by Moshe Rabbeinu just before he passed away,” said Etan Zivan, director and founder of Ruach HaNegev. “There, he reassures Am Yisrael, and encourages them by saying that the Torah ‘is close to you.’ As Moshe begins to summarize his years of leadership, he chooses to use the singular form of the word ‘you’ and not the plural. He looks each member of Am Yisrael in the eyes and says that the contents of the Torah belong to each and every one of us, speaking and relating to each of us. They are attainable by each of us. The individual reading the words of the Torah is immediately inspired and understands that not only his teacher, parent or community leader was chosen, but he, too, was chosen”.

With these high spirits, the students and faculty of Ruach HaNegev will, b’ezrat Hashem, continue growing and inspiring for many years to come.

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