Words that Close Ranks 6, April 2019

This Passover, which we happily welcome, is the first in a series of momentous national moments, denoting our becoming a people (Passover), the price we paid for independence (Memorial Day) and the joy of rebirth (Independence Day).

We open this newsletter with the words of Doron Almog, chairman of Closing Ranks, which comfort us to the same degree they leave our hearts bleeding, painful yet embracing and so aptly connecting the unfathomable depth of individual and collective grief with the heights of the light and grace we are fortunate to share.

Twetve years without Eran

By Doron Almog, Eran's father

My beloved son Eran,

For 12 years you have not been with us, yet you are everywhere. You are the force that drives me from within; my hidden yardstick in every way – the greatest teacher of my life.

This week we flew to Berlin for another fundraising event to continue developing the village that we built for you. Berlin – the city that became the capital of evil in the world, the trumpet promoting the terrible race doctrine. Berlin – the place where Grandfather Shmulik, who loved you so much, was born, and the city from which your great-grandmother Frieda Didi and great-grandfather Jacob were taken to Auschwitz.

And now we're coming with you to this city, my beloved child. I speak to 300 people at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. I tell them about you. I describe how we raised you. I tell them about our hopes that you would continue the name of Eran my brother, who did not return from the war. I tell them about the shattered parental dream. I describe the hidden paths where you led me, hand in hand, without saying a single word, without saying Dad; without making eye contact. I tell them about our journey to discover the dark sides of Israeli society, to lift the veil of shame and prejudice.

And I, who flew thousands of kilometers in the name of the State of Israel to save Jews out of my duty to mutual responsibility, find myself walking with your mother, hand in hand, in dark, stench-filled places, light years away from the place that pretended to call itself a “model society.” And you hold me tight from within and tear me out of the stupid place I was in. You break me up and shake me like no one else did. You give me to understand in your awkward way that the curtain of shame is the Iron Curtain, where hiding behind it are the darkest sides of humanity. For who could take a prince like you, free of all sin and injustice, a person with no power and ego, and put him in a place worse than a prison. You, who were born with a broken body, who from the very beginning your being was total goodness and vulnerability. All your actions here are a riddle and a test for people like me. You, who received two life sentences from birth – a broken body and an inferior institution – was in fact sentenced to a third life sentence: to live beyond the thick walls of the silver tray ethos.

You are my beloved son who brought me to confront my parents and their generation of the silver tray, those who gave us the State of Israel in their blood. My parents taught me to sacrifice my life for the sake of the only Jewish state in the world, as if that was the desired goal of their lives and deaths. The nation of my parents, the generation of the silver tray, thought that disabled children like you should be closed up in institutions. They considered you and your friends useless, with no pride. They thought it was best that Christians from abroad should take care of children like you.
You were the one about whom my parents' friends whispered quietly, so that no one should hear: "the tragedy of the family.”

My parents and their friends built a terrible iron curtain of shame around the silver platter, in order to isolate you and your friends from the ethos of the new Israeli: the brave sabra and hero. This iron curtain defined the limits of mutual responsibility and human love as pertaining only to the healthy, strong, brave and beautiful, who know how to demonstrate patriotism.

By the time my beloved son came into the world, I thought like them. How stupid and how insensitive I was!

After the fundraising event at the Crowne Plaza in Berlin, I went swimming in the hotel pool. I remembered how we had gone swimming together, and how I had wanted to teach you how to swim. To swim like me, with stylized, precise strokes; strong movements cutting through the water like a torpedo. And you were swimming beside me like a dog, crawling slowly forward. Today I understand that you are the one who taught me to swim in the darkest gutters of humanity. You are the one who taught me the meaning of “Do not judge a person until you reach his place.” For after all, a person who is placed behind the thick iron curtain of the silver tray is in a place where it is impossible to reach him, and if it is impossible to reach, then it is impossible to judge. And the distance from this point to losing one’s humanity is very short.

How arrogant and condescending I was, my dear son.

Thank you for teaching me, my beloved son. Thank you for accompanying me wherever I go. Thank you for walking with me and keeping guard so that I will not be tempted by excessive arrogance, hubris and ego. Today I know that the existence of the whole human race depends on our ability to bestow love on people like you; to put you in the center of our being – because doing for you is the only grace that will save us from the sin of pride. Indeed, “The world is built on loving-kindness” (Psalms 89:3)

My beloved son Eran – Thank you.

Welcome, Nirit!

Nirit Salhov has joined us as coordinator of training, youth and volunteers in the central district.

Nirit, 31, lives in Mazkeret Batya. She did her military service as training development officer in Training Camp 6 before serving as instructor and coordinator in the Zionist Youth Farm in Jerusalem.

We are delighted to join another accomplished young woman to our high-quality ranks.

Pack the right bag!

Even we, at Closing Ranks, become more settled down, almost middle class… We now offer a prize contest: when you go out to nature, engage in extreme sport or just visit friends, take your “Closing Ranks” backpack with you. Take a picture of this wonderful moment and share the photo with us (preferably with some information on the location, the context and the credit) and you may win an awesome prize!

Here are some samples. We’re waiting for yours!


The women of Shoham

A group of enthusiastic women volunteers from Shoham and nearby communities approached us, on their own accord, offering to serve as mentors at Closing Ranks. We feel extremely fortunate to have won this precious gift and are now working to identify youth that will benefit from their support.

The preparatory courses conference

Building on the success of the “Shimshit Project”, which brought together students from the Yezreel Valley College and the people of Shimshit who mentor them, we were invited to Safed, to introduce our work to some 30 managers of academic preparatory colleges from across Israel. The meeting went very well, some of the participants already approached us, referring their students to us.

The batallion roadshow

2019 has been designated as the year of “direct marketing” of Closing Ranks to young people. As part of this program, we have reinforced our ties with the Paratrooper Battalion No. 35 and Golani’s battalion no.1.

We went to Kisufim, Kerem Shalom, Nachal Oz and Beit Lid to meet with soldiers about to complete their service. In these meetings, we were accompanied by mentors and mentees (thank you Avinoam Bloch, Avraham Gubau, Yoav Kutik and Yehuda Melet) who shared their experience with the soldiers. Some of the soldiers who were released in the meantime have already approached us. We are waiting for their friends to follow.

The coordinators of two homes for lone soldiers in Hertzliya and Petach Tikva, have approached us in request we support their tenants, most of whom are former orthodox who are now serving in combat units.

Tal and Sapir, as well as Avraham and Yisrael also met with the graduates of “Nirim in the Neighborhoods”, who expressed their interest in joining us.


The “Friend bring Friend” Project
We are planning to start the fifth mentor class around  June.

Your help is needed so that we meet our goals: every mentor and young participant can bring a friend who could join Closing Ranks (as mentor or mentee), so that we expand our support network for young people.




Rotem’s project

The mission: Closing Ranks’ photo album. Coordinator: Gal; photographer: Rotem Avrutsky (brother of); linguistic editing: Alon. Rotem has already photographed, with his famous professionalism and sensitivity, 30 mentor-participant teams.

We invite you to experience the limelight, which is a little embarrassing but very enjoyable. We promise you will love yourself in Rotem’s excellent photos.

To schedule a session at Rotem’s home, call Gal (052-867-1688).


Our raison d’etre

We recently learned how the participants of our project feel about us and the work we do. Some of the comments we received are bellow. They are heartwarming.


Participant Mentor's residence Personal participant comment
Student at Kinnereth College Golan Hights “thanks to the mentoring, I have transformed into a completely new person. I am far more optimistic and believe I can achieve what I want. The mentor is an inspiring figure for me. I am grateful for the connection between us and for the opportunity.”
Student of Ethiopian origin, lives in Netanya.

Served in paratroopers


Mikhmoret “My mentor is an amazing, talented guy. We meet every two weeks. Our relationship is easy going and I feel comfortable discussing everything with him. I decided to quit my academic studies and he has helped me a lot in getting myself together again because he had a similar experience.”


Boarding school graduate from Tel Aviv Hertzliya “I like my mentor very much. I feel she is my good match. We meet regularly and even in between. She is like a mother to me and is very helpful. Her presence and energy alone give me a boost. I feel that the process and our connection help me develop.”
Student at the Yezreel Valley College Shimshit “We meet every two weeks. This relationship has been very instrumental for us. The mentor helps me look for a job and with my deliberations regarding studies. I am very satisfied meeting with him.”
Student, graduate of Yemin Orde Batzra “We meet every two weeks. I admire him and love the meetings. He is a very good man and very knowledgeable too. I practically can’t wait till we meet. I find this connection very helpful, also because we share many interests.”
Student in the preparatory course of the Yezreel Valley College Shimshit “We have developed a great, very open connection. She is amazing and feel relaxed with her. Throughout the exams she helped me a lot with studying, sitting with me in the library, studying together.”
Graduate of Yemin order, from Haifa Zikhron Yaakov “Thanks to my mentor I moved to central Israel and started a preparatory course at Bar Ilan University. We meet each time I go north. This connection is very helpful for me. I have someone to call whenever I need help and support.”
Young girl from Eilat, studying Osteopathyat Wingate Mikhmoret “My mentor is incredible. I feel that things are beginning to change. It is an amazing process. I feel I have someone to lean on, someone who listens to me and is always there with me.”
Student of nursing in the Yezreel Valley College. Born in Ethiopia; grew up in Lod Alon Hagalil “the mentoring started two months ago. My father was accused of stealing from his workplace. Your organization helped me so much by assigning us a lawyer on a pro bono basis. Gladly, my father was acquitted. I sent my mentor the following message: ‘the charges against my dad have been dropped for lack of evidence. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the support, the help and for having you as my mentor.’”
Student at the Sapir College. Lives in Sderot Lehavim “I very much love and admire the mentor who supports me. I think Closing ranks is doing a very important work and this is the reason I chose to volunteer too.”

Fresh meat

Around 60 new mentors gathered this week at the organic farm in Bitan Aharon.

Following a tour of the farm, which boasts the best of Israeli agricultural produce (vegetable, fish, goats and chicken), they listened to Moshik Zigel – representative of the professional team, and Sapir Yehieli – representative of the coordinators, who gave a brief overview of their work.

Dotan Levy and Yehonatan from “Derech Kfar” gave a fascinating and fun workshop on mentoring including techniques, boundaries, goals and highlights.

The meeting concluded with a workshop on occupational planning for young people just out of the military. The workshop was guided by Benayahu Plaser from Hulda. Benayahu is a mentor at Closing Ranks and the head of YOUA, a company that specializes in employment orientation. YOUA is offering its services at introductory prices until the end of June, for the young people you mentor as well as for your children. To benefit from a NIS-100 discount, enter the following payment on checkout: WT7PL8GZCC

Take the self-evaluation test here: http://bit.ly/2DaC9rV

For more information, contact our volunteer coordinators: Tal, Sapir or Nirit.

The presence of some of the founders of Closing Ranks as well as mentors who are on their second tenure – helped create a warm, family atmosphere. We would like to extend special thanks to those who traveled from far: Golan heights, Shimshit and Shaar Ha’Negev.

Our general feeling is that we are doing something right and good that should be expanded further.

We invite you to enter the Link to photos from the event: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1Byky4z_f7_FDhlKFQyHb6AIH8OSSKOFP?usp=sharing

At the opening of the meeting, Daphna Herold read out a piece I wrote for the occasion:

“Closing Ranks is the forum where we, as individuals, join forces beneath the stretcher of inequality and injustice in Israel.

Together we shoulder the naïve attempt to save even a single soul and thus make our world a better one.

On behalf of the executive committee of our NGO, of which I am so proud to be part, I welcome you with love and appreciation.

Appreciation because we are all aware of the personal price and the choices you need to make. We take them very seriously.

Love, because anyone who spends the time and emotional resources to help the growth of another human being is worthy of loving.

It has been said that “Fulfilling your material needs is my spiritual need.” As people who also fulfil the spiritual needs of our disciples, we certainly bring good to this world.

My new personal circumstances prevented me from participating in the joy of this meeting. I therefore leave you in the skilled hands of Daphna, “Notre Dame de Mikhmoret” who together with her man and the wonderful team of the NGO, as well as the members of our executive committee and chairman Doron Almog, fulfils our dreams and allows hundreds of young and older Israelis to get together, embrace one another, dream and fulfil together, get up from your ashes and fly as high as you can.

Welcome to our ranks, new mentors; Thank you for all your work, our old mentors.

Happy Passover to you and your families, friends and neighbors, colleagues and dear ones wherever they may be.

May the story of the Exodus become our guiding light for a year of social accountability and giving to the other.

And a political comment: two of our co-founders will sit for the first time in the Knesset, which will be sworn in two weeks. I hope you regard Benny and myself as your patriotic delegates who carry the sword, sing the song of peace and their heart beats with the desire for justice and equality.


Wishing you a meaningful and Happy Passover

Alon Schuster