"Today's challenges demand that we defend our land from slander and battle the lies that are being thrown at us. As Israel endures constant delegitimization we must remember that we are powerful when we are united as one," declared Ayalon on Sunday evening in New York. Delivering his remarks as the keynote speaker at the 29th annual Bet El dinner, Ayalon addressed close to 2,000 ardent supporters of the Bet El Yeshiva Center and community at the Marriott Marquish Hotel in Manhattan.
Introduced by Eugen Gluck, the honorary chairman of Bet El, Ayalon drew parallels from this past week's Torah portion relating to the unwavering bond that the Jewish people have with the land of Israel. "In Parshas Vayetze, we learn that even when Yaakov Avinu had to leave the land of Israel, his mind never wondered from his homeland. As we follow in his footsteps, our prayers call for us to remember Zion."
Speaking of the eternal connection between G-d, our forefathers and the land of Israel, Ayalon said, "Hashem issued three separate commandments to the three different kinds of Jews. For those who can pick up and move to Israel, we know that G-d told Avraham to leave his land and come to Israel. For those Israelis and others now living in Israel, G-d told Yitzchak to remain in the land and never leave. For those who have lived outside of the land for so many years, G-d told Yaakov that he will return to his land and assured him that His presence will always be with him in exile but he will surely return."
Commenting on the escalating hostilities aimed at the Jewish state by the international community, Eugen Gluck, who has been referred to as "the backbone of Bet El" and is a most magnanimous contributor, said, "I am deeply concerned about the Obama administration pushing Israel into making unacceptable territorial concessions and my concerns don't end there. I am also concerned about the endless barrage of rockets being fired into Israel from Gaza and Katyushas being fired from Lebanon into northern Israel." He added that "Israel's survival depends on the development of cities like Bet El, and on the brave pioneers and heroes like our own Ketzaleh (Rabbi MK Yaakov Katz); men and women of vision and faith. These are people of indomitable spirit who are willing to suffer unremitting hardships in order to secure Israel's border, while living a life of Torah Judaism in Israel."
Known as "the place where Jewish history began," Bet El, which is located in the hills north of Jerusalem, continues to exemplify the miracle of re-building of the Land of Israel through its multifarious programs which include the Beit El Yeshiva and Kollel, Teachers' College, Har Bracha Hesder Yeshiva, the Bnei Tzvi Yeshiva High School, the Ra'aya Academy for Young Women (high school), the Bet El Pre-Military Academy, as well as serving as home base for Israel's premier news web site, Arutz Sheva, and other periodical literature.
Remembering those IDF soldiers who are currently missing in action, the evening began with the recitation of Chapter 130 of the book of Tehillim (Psalms) for the safe return of Ron Arad, Zachary Shlomo Baumel, Zvi Feldman, Yehuda Katz and Guy Hever.
The roster of this year's awardees included such prestigious individuals as guests of honor Rabbi Etan and Esther Tokayer, Shomer Yisroel awardee Rubin Margules, Keter Torah Awardees, Moshe and Raizy Zicherman and Young Leadership Awardees, Dovid and Mushkee Efune.
"Today there are 350,000 Jews in 121 settlements in Judea and Samaria," said Rabbi Tokayer. "As Ariel Sharon once said, if a million Jews came to live in Israel, there would be no issue of disputed territory. If you look at the exponential growth of Bet El, it is due to such a tremendous leader as Eugen Gluck. What if we had 100 leaders like Mr. Gluck with each of them doing for an individual settlement what he did for Bet El? Can you imagine? This just shows you what a man with a vision can accomplish", he said.
"Bet El is the cradle of civilization and 4,000 years later, G-d's promise has been fulfilled and we Jews have returned home", said Margules. "Our dedication to Bet El is a demonstration of solidarity and support. We are a beacon of light and a source of truth is a murky world filled with disinformation", he added. Likening Bet El to a beautiful rainbow, he added, "We must be ever vigilant and protective" as he referenced the possibility of homes in Judea and Samaria being demolished. "This does not bring peace closer. We have already expelled Jews to calamitous results. We do not occupy the land; we have returned to the land that G-d gave us."
Known in their community as "silent tzedaka activists", this year's recipients of the Keter Shem Tov award were Moshe and Raizy Zicherman. The pursuit of chesed (charity and kindness) was instilled in this couple at a young age by their parents and Moshe is on the welcoming committee at Congregation Shlomo Zalman in Flatbush. Raizy is involved in Flatbush's Bikur Cholim organization, Tomchei Shabbos, Ha'azinu for the hearing impaired, and the PTA at their children's school. After hearing Bet El Founder Ketzaleh speak at his shul, the Zichermans visited Bet El and were duly impressed with the serious commitment to Torah learning that they witnessed there and since then have become close friends of the community.
A special memorial tribute was held for Carl Joseph Freyer, ZT"L, the founder of the Arutz Sheva news site. His widow, Sylvia Freyer, addressed the gathering. Arutz Sheva was described as a "media revolution," having begun its broadcasts that offered independent news and analysis from a boat off the coast of Israel. Dinner organizers were "saddened by Mr. Freyer's loss" but extended heartfelt plaudits to him for his "fierce dedication' to providing the truth in news. Said Mrs. Freyer, "Carl always shared a close and trusting relationship with Ketzaleh and Rabbi Melamed and felt very strongly about building the land and championing issues such as establishing an especially strong medium to impart the values he believed in."