Nestled in the Judean Hills near the Elah Valley, Moshav Agur was founded in 1950. Originally founded by Yemenite immigrants, it later attracted Jews of Kurdish and Turkish origin. Today, Agur is known for its flourishing boutique winery. Belev Echad has been helping Agur residents grow closer to their heritage for 18 years.
An Officer in G-d’s Brigade
“Mm, look at all that cold cola!”
It was a hot summer afternoon at the soccer pitch. Moshav families were everywhere, watching their boys play soccer while their little ones tumbled around in the grass.
I’d set myself up near the pitch with a massive bag of snacks and a cooler of icy drinks. It looked like I’d found my first customer. – B
Glancing up, I saw a flushed, sweaty boy of about 11 standing somewhere between his family’s picnic blanket and me. He was eyeing my cooler with longing.
“You played a good game, eh?” I smiled. Pulling out a can of soda, I tossed it to him. “Enjoy, it’s yours.”
“Todah,” the boy’s father called across the grass. “Ben, tell him thank you.”
“My pleasure.” I grabbed a few more drinks and snacks and strolled over.
We chatted as Ben and his little brothers enjoyed their treats. Though his parents introduced themselves as fully secular, Ben seemed curious about this rabbi and his very different lifestyle. I told him a bit about the Torah classes for youngsters we were running on the moshav, and invited him to try one out.
A few weeks later, he took me up on the offer. Soon, he became a regular. Eventually, I set him up with a madrich (“big brother” or mentor) named Yoni, who would come to his house and learn with him. Together, they explored emunah, studied Chumash, and helped Ben understand more about his Jewish roots.
Two years later, Yoni watched proudly as Ben, now a bar-mitzvah boy, read his entire parsha perfectly from the bimah.
Ben was proud too. He’d enjoyed that experience so much that he got Yoni to help him prepare the parsha every week. The moshav shul gained an enthusiastic new baal korei.
As Ben’s Jewish journey proceeded, bumps in the road cropped up often. Ben’s parents weren’t thrilled about the mitzvot he was keeping. When he wanted to start keeping kosher, it took lots of careful guidance from Yoni to help Ben refrain from his mother’s food without triggering painful fights.
Shabbat was also a struggle. When things became tense, Belev Echad’s Rav Elchaddad would sit with Ben’s parents, soothing them and helping them and Ben understand each other. He also gifted them with a free pair of tefillin for Ben – and, in time, for his younger brothers, who had started following Ben to classes.
When he joined the IDF at 18, Ben brought his enthusiasm for Judaism with him. He helped soldiers throughout his unit put on his tefillin.
He was also as careful as he could be about Shabbat, despite the many obstacles army life set in his path. One Friday, during the Lebanon War, he received orders to spend Shabbat morning driving to the South of Israel with crucial intelligence information. Soon, Rabbi Elchaddad of Belev Echad received a frenzied phone call.
“Rabbi, how can I do this?” Ben cried. “I’ve been keeping Shabbat for years. I don’t want to start breaking it now!”
Rav Elchaddad quickly explained that when lives are at stake, we’re permitted to do forbidden work on Shabbos. “If it’s life-saving work, go ahead and do it. There’s no problem.”
That was far from the only phone call Rav Elchaddad received from Ben during his army service. Ben constantly sent questions his way – questions about fasting on Tisha B’Av. About keeping kosher. About issues with Shabbat and other Jewish holidays.
After his five-year army service ended, Ben decided to pursue a career in the police force. When he’s not at work keeping the Jewish People safe, he’s working on the spiritual wellbeing of his fellow officers. When halachic questions arise, he encourages them to call his Belev Echad mentor Rav Elchaddad. Now, an entire Israeli police precinct has a halachic “hotline” – which is regularly in use.
Ben is ready for the next exciting chapter in his journey. He’s looking for a wife who shares the passion and commitment for Judaism that was planted in his heart 16 years ago by a Belev Echad can of cola.
At Belev Echad, we’re exceptionally proud of this special officer in G-d’s brigade. And we can’t wait to watch him and support him as he builds the beautiful Jewish family he dreams of.
had taught them more than any class could about the joy of living modestly.