Every bride – and groom – deserves a beautiful wedding, and that includes couples of limited means, who cannot afford the high prices prevalent in most wedding halls.
In Binyamin, nestled among fruit trees and with an amazing view of the Samarian hills, there is a beautiful wedding hall that couples can use – for free – to celebrate their happiest day.
That wedding hall – along with the orchards containing thousands of olive and other trees, as well as a scenic hiking trail in honor of Jonathan Pollard, and now, a scenic lookout honoring the memory of Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu – is the work of one man whose example has been taken by hundreds of youths in the Binyamin area, an inspiration to communities in the area, and further afield.
Rabbi Shmuel Rachmani is a modest but singular individual, say those who know him. A ba'al teshuva who attended the prestigious Bezalel art academy in Jerusalem, Rabbi Rachmani lends an artistic twist to any project he works on.
And, he served in the IDF in an elite unit – learning skills that, unfortunately, he has been forced to employ even after leaving the army in order to defend his work from Arab terrorists.
After living in several places in Binyamin, he set up a farm in an open area between Kochav Ya'akov and Migron, where he planted olive groves and fruit trees. The area, called Na'ot Binyamin, could rightly be called a forest, considering the thousands of trees Rabbi Rachmani and his crew have planted in recent years, although he uses the more modest term “orchard. "We decided to plant here because the land was lying fallow, and we wanted to do what we could to beautify the Land of Israel,” he explains.
Rabbi Rachmani has taken other steps to beautify the area. He excavated an ancient winepress and turned it into an attraction. He built a giant Chanukiyah that can be seen for miles around. He, along with youth in the area, developed a hiking trail in the valley between Kochav Ya'akov and Migron (that project was dedicated to Jonathan and Esther Pollard “as a means of letting them know how much they are appreciated by us and how he serves as an example of doing what is right regardless of the personal costs entailed”).
He established and manages the aforementioned celebration space, where, Rabbi Rachmani says, dozens (he's lost count of how many) of weddings and brit milah celebrations have taken place, with the space, tables, chairs, and all facilities provided free for those lacking money.
In his latest project, Rabbi Rachmani developed a lookout with a marvelous view of the Samarian hills, in memory of former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu. The Binyamin Regional Council has welcomed the effort, and is supplying picnic tables and shade pergolas for the site, and Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, son of the former Chief Rabbi, has come out to plant trees at the site. There are efforts underway to get the hiking trail recognized as a national park.
Rabbi Rachmani has certainly accomplished a great deal – yet he feels he could do much more, were it not for the seemingly ceaseless harassment and attacks by Arabs on his work. “A few years ago my house was invaded, with several Arabs trying to break in through the service entrance. Thank G-d we were able to get rid of them, and later when they were caught, they turned out to be two armed terrorists who were planning a mass terror attack,” Rabbi Rachmani says.
Arabs have stolen goats and sheep that live on his farm and destroyed trees – and earlier this summer, set a large fire that destroyed hundreds of trees and expensive irrigation equipment. Area youth converged on the fire and helped put it out, thus saving the bulk of the farm's beautiful greenery.
With all his accomplishments, Rabbi Rachmani keeps a very low profile; this is his first interview with a major website, Israeli or foreign. And although he does not consider himself a teacher, Rabbi Rachmani says he does have a message to Jews around the world.
“We must come back to our roots, both spiritual and national. That's the essence of what we are trying to do here in Binyamin,” Rabbi Rachmani says, “and it applies to Jews all around the world, in whatever way they can accomplish this.”