The Am Yisrael Foundation and the North Central Synagogue of Tel Aviv dedicated a new Torah scroll on Sunday, in honor of the 72 IDF soldiers who fell during Operation Protective Edge.
During 2014 over 1,000 long range rockets were fired by Hamas at cities across Israel, including Jerusalem, Ashdod, Ashkelon and Tel Aviv endangering the majority of Israel’s population. In response, the IDF targeted over 1,474 terror targets in Gaza and sent in troops, 72 of whom died in combat.
Throughout Operation Protective Edge, one surprising city pledged to increase its Torah learning and observance as a way to combat the physical danger facing Israel. Following the traditions of the Torah sages who urge the Jewish people to fight a physical war with increased spirituality, many synagogues in Tel Aviv began increasing their Shabbat programming and Torah study.
The North Central Synagogue, among others, began hosting groups like White City Shabbat for massive feasts of peace. The Am Yisrael Foundation, recognizing Tel Aviv as the fastest growing city for olim and young professionals, pledged to raise money and awareness for a new Torah scroll in honor of the IDF heroes who lost their lives defending the city along with the rest of Israel.
Jews around the world were asked to contribute to Tel Aviv’s new Torah, and just as the 2015 fiscal year came to a close, the Torah was completed. While the war ended, daily terror attacks continue to plague Israel. This new Torah in Tel Aviv symbolizes the resilience of the Jewish community’s rich heritage of combating violence with Jewish unity.
Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv-Yafo Rav Yisrael Meir Lau opened the Torah dedication by delivering a moving speech to hundreds of young professionals who filled the Yichud Olam Congregation at 86 Ben Yehuda.
"The last mitzvah of the 613 mitzvahs is dedicating a Torah, and the first mitzvah is very important to the young people. Have children," said the rabbi.
"There is a sentence from Moshe Rabeinu in Parshat Devarim that says, ‘There will be a day when Am Yisrael will have a lot of troubles.' Tonight the young people of Tel Aviv will dedicate a Torah and sing in the streets. The singing of people of Israel will go up to God to bear witness that the Torah will not be forgotten from the loins of Israel. The Torah is eternal, and the giving of the Torah is eternal, and He chose us to be the people of eternity."
Rabbi Shlomo Chayen, the new rabbi of the North Central Synagogue kicked off the parade where the Torah was to be placed into it’s new home on 126 Ben Yehuda. He invited everyone to participate in the parade regardless of age, gender or religious level.
"It’s really amazing to stand in front of such a congregation, and as a shul, accept such a gift in the memory of the 72 fallen in Protective Edge. In this shul we have Israelis and also olim. Religious and more traditional. This is the reason why I’m so happy we got a new Sefer Torah. When I met the Sofer on Thursday he told me something incredible. He told me he felt when he was writing the Sefer Torah, the 72 fallen were writing it with him. He said it was the tears of the mothers that wrote it with him.”
MK Michael Oren (Likud), a former lone soldier, spoke about the importance of building Jewish life in Tel Aviv.
“Sometimes when you’re in my world and you’re dealing with all the problems and stress of the country you wonder, what holds this place together? When you’re dealing with the difference of this country, right, left, Orthodox, secular, Arabs, Druze, and Christians, every once in a while you come to a very special place like this synagogue, and it all becomes very very clear to you. What holds it together is the spirit of Israel," said Oren.
"The spirit that each and every one of you represents, and what this community represents. And whatever they throw at us, whatever they stab us with, it’s never going to work. We have an eternal strength that is unbreakable, and the fact that we can gather together tonight is our way of reaffirming our commitment as Jews, our dedication as Zionsits, our devotion as Israelis and our unity despite whatever differences we have.”
The dedication ended with an open reception and Sheva Brachot for the President of the Am Yisrael Foundation Jay Shultz. Shultz said about the guests of the North Central Synagogue: "it is a vibrant community like the one the young olim are building in Tel Aviv that ensures the Jewish People will never collapse under threat of violence and hatred."
"What more beautiful way could there be to celebrate the spirit of the Jewish People than with the writing of a new Torah scroll. Just as King David brought the ark of God into Jerusalem with joy, tonight we danced through the streets of Holy Tel Aviv in honor of the soldiers we lost to war last year. May their ultimate sacrifice inspire us all towards living a more meaningful life."
The new Torah is a gift to the city of Tel Aviv in hopes it will bring increased peace and community unity.