“?What Did You Do During the War”

Our children are not immune to the crisis atmosphere that has pervaded Israel since the Hamas attack on October 7, and many of them want to help Israel’s war effort. Staff at the Netzach elementary and high schools have been working hard to help their students deal with a wide range of emotions during this difficult period, and also to channel their energies into constructive activities for the benefit of Israeli society and the war effort.

Volunteering and social action projects have always been a key part of the Netzach schools’ curriculum. When communities in Southern and Northern Israel were evacuated during the first weeks of the war, our schools and our students quickly initiated projects to assist those affected. The Netzach Yisrael Elementary Schools in Beit Shemesh organized activities for evacuated children, and to package gifts for families housed in the city. Students from three Netzach High Schools were “called up” to use their computer skills in municipal situation rooms, helping to arrange emergency accommodation for evacuated families.

Students from Yeshivat Nishmat HaTorah in Jerusalem tied 300 sets of tzitzit onto army vests for the many religious and non-religious soldiers who wanted to avail themselves of this spiritual protection during the fighting.

Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Eliezer Steinberger said: “Because Israel is fighting a holy war, our soldiers need holy protection! Our sages teach us that tzitzit provide spiritual protection in difficult times. By tying the holy strings of tzitzit onto the corners of these IDF vests, our students really feel connected to the men who will be wearing them while fighting to defend our country, with G-d’s help!”

Students from Yeshivat Chayei Olam also took to the streets to distribute tzitzit to citizens who wished to start wearing them. High school students have been organizing deliveries of donated groceries for the families of serving soldiers. On Chanukah, a group of students from Midrasha HaChassidit in Beitar visited hospitals to sing to the patients and distribute doughnuts. Over the past two months, staff and older students have paid shiva calls to the bereaved families in their cities, and children at all the Netzach schools have been saying Tehillim for those injured and taken hostage by Hamas.

On November 20, World Children’s Day, the Knesset Committee for the Protection of Children’s Rights invited young people from schools around Israel to speak about their involvement in the war effort. Students from Netzach’s Darkei-Sara High School spoke about their volunteering activities, including packaging and selling flowers harvested from the Southern kibbutzim to generate income for the displaced farmers, and travelling to hotels in Eilat to work with evacuated children.

Shira Morgenstern and Michal Gergel explained to the Knesset Committee: “We spent five days supporting the teaching staff, tutoring children who needed extra help, and organizing after-school activities in the hotels. Through our volunteering efforts during the first weeks of the war, we established a model for students from other high schools to follow.” Click here to hear their testimony to the Knesset Committee.

Students from Darkei-Sara were also the first religious girls’ high school to volunteer in the fields, taking the place of agricultural workers who fled the country when war broke out. Since then, students and their teachers from Yeshivat Nishmat HaTorah and Yeshivat Chayei Olam in Beit Shemesh have been volunteering each week on Israeli farms. Here Rabbi Chanan Fruchter is shown harvesting celery in the greenhouses of Moshav Talmei Bilu with his colleagues and students from Chayei Olam.

Through all these activities, Netzach staff are not only modeling the importance of volunteering, but they are connecting our Haredi students with the war efforts on every front. By distributing gifts to the families of serving soldiers in their neighborhoods, they recognize the value of every soldier and the ‘mesirut nefesh’ of their wives and children. By working the land, they appreciate how their food arrives on the supermarket shelves and the importance of Israeli agriculture.

High school students are also being given opportunities to interact with Israelis from a wider cross-section of society, and to demonstrate their willingness to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those who dress differently but share many of the same core values. We hope that this community spirit will influence their future life decisions. We know that at least 15 graduates of the Midrasha are currently serving in the IDF. Their names have been distributed to schools of the Netzach Network so that special Tehillim can be said for the success of the Israel Defense Forces in general, and for the safe return of these students in particular. Click here to download the list.

Netzach Development Director Ryan Levin explains: “Helping our students to identify personally with the Israeli security forces is an important message at this time. Just as our CEO Menachem Bombach is serving our country in uniform as a volunteer on the Home Front, we want our students to understand that they too are part of the national war effort.”

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