By Jerome Dikowitz
“It’s time for all in the United States to join together and support Israel. I have been to the Promised Land nearly 30 times over the past 41 years and have never seen the nation under such threat. Israel is our closest ally and friend, and they are suffering due to weak, evil people and countries throughout the world. We as a country must do more to protect Israel and relish in its survival. G‑d has protected this small, beautiful, and increasingly meaningful country, but it’s time for the United States to do the same.” These are the words of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, considered by many to be one of the biggest supporters of Israel in American politics today.
With all the news being dominated by Arab propaganda about “Israeli occupation” and “settlements” impeding the so-called peace process, here is the true story of what is taking place in Biblical Judea and Samaria. Spearheaded by visionaries like Jean and Eugen Gluck, there are Jewish communities that are bringing light and warmth to the world, promoting social justice and compassionate values that we can all learn from.
Bet El’s extraordinary story began 4,000 years ago, when the patriarch Abraham set up camp along his Divinely inspired trek through the land of Canaan. Two generations later, Bet El became the site of Jacob’s famous dream and dramatic wrestling match with an angel—the site where the name “Israel” was coined.
Bet El has transformed from a tiny community of eight families in 1977 to a vibrant Jewish center which now houses an ethnically diverse Jewish population of over 15,000. Bet El is home to the world-renowned Bet El Yeshiva Center, which provides a comprehensive education to students from preschool through post-college. Their graduates have become the leading teachers in yeshivas and high schools across Israel, bringing the spirit of Torah to all. The Raaya Girls High School Academy is celebrated as one of the premier learning centers in all of Israel and can’t accommodate all the girls who want to attend. The national media network called Arutz Sheva, with parallel websites in Hebrew, English, and Russian, brings a message of optimism and hope to supporters of Israel worldwide. It is a major force in the media today combating the delegitimatization of the State of Israel. The B’Sheva newspaper is the third-largest circulation newspaper in all of Israel with engaging articles and focus on accomplishments of outstanding individuals and institutions throughout Israel. It encourages all Israelis to be better citizens and live their lives the way we all should.
The people of Bet El are also blazing a trail in the military struggle for the defense of the land and people of Israel. The Israeli Defense Forces Gluck Preparatory Academy did what many thought was impossible. Its mission is to strengthen the adolescent spirit and character before young adults enter the Israeli Army. There are hundreds of students who changed their lives for the better at Bet El and go on to serve Israel filled with spiritual strength and their desire to serve in elite units and as officers.
So, you see, Bet El isn’t just a settlement. It is a microcosm of the very essence of Israel and all we love.
How was this spiritual oasis created? What makes it thrive? We have to go back over 30 years ago, when Yom Kippur War hero Yaakov “Ketzaleh” Katz, along with a few families and yeshiva students, had a vision of what Bet El could be. With three decades of tireless help from Jean and Eugen Gluck and the American Friends of Bet El, the town is now a vibrant center of Jewish life that nurtures all of Israel in a way that no other center of learning matches. Because Bet El is not just a learning center, it is a way of life.
When you look at the people of Bet El today, you see the people of 4,000 years ago in spirit, and all the generations in between with glow of G‑d around them. You see people smiling with knowledge of the meaning of existence: to help one another, to further the teachings of Torah, to help Israel live and be the foundation of Jewish life in the entire world. All who support Israel should support the heart of Israel—Bet El.
On December 7, at the Marriott Marquis ballroom in Manhattan, American Friends of Bet El is set to honor the residents and supporters of this northern Samarian town. Now in its 32nd year, the American Friends of Bet El dinner has become one of New York City’s largest and most prestigious Jewish events, with last year’s dinner attracting 1,500 attendees.
In addition to presenting guest speaker Governor Mike Huckabee, the American Friends of Bet El will honor Akiva and Chanita Teitz, Shomer Yisrael Honorees; Barry and Suri Weiss, Keter Torah Awardees; and Rabbi Allen Schwartz, Guest of Honor. The event begins with a 5:00 p.m. smorgasbord, leading into dinner at 6:00 p.m. Tickets are $500 per couple. To make your reservation, contact Baruch Gordon at 917-595-0435. Come join building Bet El today, and continue the tradition established by Abraham and Jacob over 35 centuries ago.
By Jerome Dikowitz