The world's first Kassam-proof Beit Midrash (Torah study hall) was dedicated on Thursday, in the presence of dozens of rabbis, students, parents and guests of the Hesder Yeshiva in Sderot.

A hesder yeshiva is an Israeli program which combines advanced Talmudic studies with military service in the Israel Defense Forces.

Sderot Yeshiva Dean Rabbi David Fendel addresses guests, on backdrop of Holy Ark. On dais, from left:

MK Orlev, Rabbi Bakshi-Doron, Mr. Adolpho Picciotto, Yaakov Ne'man

Israel News Photo: Bnaya F.

Sderot, the Negev city that has been home to the yeshiva for 14 years, has become the symbol of the rocket war that Fatah, Hamas and other Arab terrorists have launched against Israel over the past eight years.  Throughout this period, the yeshiva has grown exponentially, and has become an important factor in the strength and resilience of the townspeople.

The new building, which stands out impressively above the flat Sderot landscape, is protected against Kassam rockets - but Yeshiva Dean and founder Rabbi David Fendel says this is not a defensive posture: "It is rather a display of our determination to build and expand, in the face of whatever threats our enemies present.  Hamas wants to turn Sderot into ruins, and we will show them instead that it will grow even bigger and stronger, inspired by the Torah study, community involvement, army service and leadership of our hundreds of students."


The yeshiva dedication on Thursday was described by observers as the convergence of two simultaneous national marches: The drive towards a powerful, safe nation defended by its skillful and motivated army and homefront, and the growth of Torah institutions even in outlying areas.

The roof of the Beit Medrash is made of 40 centimeters of poured cement - nearly three times thicker than regular buildings - to withstand a direct rocket hit.  In addition, its windows are bullet- and shrapnel-proof, and cement overhangs over every door and window.

The Thursday event was attended by a striking array of rabbis and public figures from Israel and the United States.  Among them were Israel's Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, former Chief Rabbi and Rishon LeTzion Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, and Chief IDF Rabbi Avi Rontzky.  Many parents of the yeshiva students from around the country took part as well.

The new yeshiva edifice, the dome of which towers over the town, was donated largely by Mr. and Mrs. Adolpho and Bella Picciotto, in memory of their son Avraham who was killed in a car accident at the age of 22.  The Picciottos vowed to dedicate 22 new synagogues or yeshivot in various locations, in memory of their son and his 22 years of life.

Public officials included Sderot Mayor David Buskila, Trade Minister Eli Yishai, MKs Zevulun Orlev, Nissan Slomiansky, Yaakov Litzman, and Effie Eitam, and many others.  Rabbi Fendel profusely thanked Orlev, Slomiansky and Litzman for their roles in procuring public funding for the yeshiva. Litzman, for instance, as Chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee, declared at one point a year ago that he would not facilitate the approval of any budgeting for Sderot defenses unless the Yeshivat Hesder was included as well.

Also participating in the day-long festivities and Torah study sessions were Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein of Yeshivat Har Etzion, as well as Rabbis Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg, Avigdor Nebenzahl, Elisha Vishlitzky, Yitzchak David Grossman, and Yeshivat Shaalvim Deans Rabbis Meir Shlesinger and Avraham Avidan.