Exactly nine years since the Expulsion from Gush Katif, the Sderot Hesder Yeshiva (Torah academy) has been turned into a center for soldiers to recover and raise their spirits after battle in Gaza.
“There is a great love here for the IDF,” said Rabbi David Fendel, dean of the Afikei Da'at Hesder Yeshiva.
During the last weeks, the Afikei Da’at Hesder Yeshiva has been turned into a center that has been serving as a gathering place – both military and spiritual – for the IDF forces who are lodged there along with the dozens of yeshiva students who have come there to provide physical, moral and spiritual support.
Yeshiva Dean Rabbi David Fendel told Artuz Sheva that now, just as in the days during the 2005 "Disengagement" which saw the deportation of Gaza's Jewish population, the yeshiva is at the forefront in its role of lifting the spirits and morale of the residents of the south.
“Imagine, nine years ago during the Expulsion, we were full of people staying here, showering and eating here, and we even sat here trying to figure out how to get into Gaza” to help resist the deportation, he said.
The yeshiva is also hosting an IDF battalion and Rabbi Fendel, whose yeshiva combines Torah study and army service, sees soldiers and yeshiva students as a natural combination.
“We have a great love for the IDF here, and the connections made here are simply amazing,” he said. “There is not one place in the whole of Israel that is not represented here. We had one reservist who came here with no kippah on his head who said the Shabbat he spent here he will never forget.”
Another hesder yeshiva that was ‘drafted’ into service is the Shdemot Mehola Yeshiva, who came to reinforce the students at the Neve Dekalim Yeshiva in Ashdod, named after the Neve Dekalim community of Gaza in which it was initially established.
“We partnered with them when they were in Neve Dekalim nine years ago before the Expulsion, and continued with them when they moved to Ashdod, the dean of the Yeshiva, Rabbi Shlomo Rosenfeld told Arutz Sheva.