Rabbi Yoni Kirsch
Rabbi Yoni KirschYair Yulis

I'd like to share two short experiences that happened to me recently. They seem to be connected to one another and to

1. Last week, I was hiking on a beautiful trail in the Judean desert named Nahal Mishmar. It was especially scenic and filled with the recent rainwater that raised the level of some of it's natural pools. This was a relatively difficult hike, not as accessible nor as popular as Ein Gedi or Massada, and,naturally, one would encounter fewer hikers on this path. While meeting people on trails, it's common to have a word or two with them.

So who did we meet? First, we met three yeshiva students from a hassidic yeshiva. It was still Pesach yeshiva break (bein hazmanim in Hebrew). A bit later on, we met two hareidi yeshiva students , from a decidedly Litvish (non-hassidic haredi) orientation . As we continued, we also came upon a Religious Zionist yeshiva high school graduate and other non-categorizable Israelis . It was quite interesting seeing these fellows going on a challenging hike. I thought of a few questions posed to myself. Where did they hear about this trail? How did they get there? Are they familiar with other challenging hikes on this level?

A week later, this story repeated itself. I hiked to a spring between Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh called Ein Tayasim. Here too, many of the other hikers we met were of a hareidi and yeshivish background: two Sephardic yeshiva students, another class with their rebbe from a "cheder" and others. All with their white shirts and tzitzis out.

Speaking to them, I discovered that we have a lot of commonalities that we could talk about; which Talmud tractate (masechet) are we learning, halakhic aspects of a spring as a kosher mikvah, comparing this spring to other springs (which are deeper and colder…). It was a good feeling, one could easily sense the solidarity.

Apparently, this was not a coincidence, but an occurrence that happens more and more with young people from different religious backgrounds, including the yeshivish/hareidi world . . This makes total sense, after all, Eretz Yisroel is not only for secular or religious national people, but for everyone.

2. Attending prayer services (minyan) at a shul in Jerusalem a few days ago, I noticed a sign displayed that notified the public of the schedule of pryaers for Yom Ha'atzmaut . Interestingly, the poster clearly stated that there will be TWO official minyanim on Yom Ha'atzmaut- one that will recite the Hallel and the other one that will not (although it will omit the tachanun prayer, not said on days when there is a happy occasion). Below where the times of davening were listed, this sign listed the Rabbis and halakhic decisors, Poskim, who supported the respective approaches. It went on to note that 'we love and respect éveryone and are interested that everyone (in this shul) continue to follow their Rabbanim'.

sign at shul
sign at shulY.KIrsch

To me it was fascinating. I approached the wonderful Rabbi of the shul, Rav Klein, to ask about it. He told me that they have such beautiful unity (achdut) all year round between all sectors- Religious Zionists, Shasnikim, Agudaniks, Ashkenazim , Sephardim, Breslovers, Chabadnikim and all simple Jews that want to daven together, and it would be such a shame to ruin it all for one day of halakhic dispute. He explained that the purpose is not to change people's mind because that won't happen anyway; Someone who is following the rulings of Rav Ovadya, for example, will not be persuaded to change his mind, even if you have great rabbinical support that the Hallel with a Bracha should be recited. This way everyone feels comfortable and is not resentful for the rest of the year, due to this one issue.

So what's the connection between these two stories? We have much more in common than we think. More and more people are interested in the connection to the Land of Israel. The great majority of us are interested in achdut (unity) with all of Jewry. And yes, they want the type of unity that seeks to respect the others approach, looking for areas that do bind us together. Eretz Yisrael belongs to all of us. A shul belongs to all of us.

If this isn't part of the natural development of the Redemption, then what is?

Rabbi Yonatan Kirsch was born in NJ but grew up in Ginot Shomron after his parents moved to Israel. He teaches at the Hesder Yeshiva in Sderot, where he lives with his wife and family, after receiving his semicha from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. He is author of the book "Ma'alot Hamikve", published by Dabri Shir, and served as a combat soldier, is a certified tour guide