By: Kevin Cyrulnik  | 

From the Commie Archives (April 10, 2003; Volume 67, Issue 11) — “Students Organize Operation Torah Shield III with Record-Breaking Speed”

Editor’s Note: Following the conclusion of the latest “Operation Torah Shield” trip in Israel this week, The Commentator has republished an article about the last such trip, also called “Operation Torah Shield 3”

In just six days, three Yeshiva students successfully organized Operation Torah Shield III, a solidarity mission that transported 100 Yeshiva Students to Israel for a week.  The organizers planned the trip with the specific goal of arriving in Israel on Monday, March 17, the day President Bush set as his deadline for senior Iraqi officials to relinquish power, to express their solidarity with Israel.

Yeshiva College junior Yisrael Schachter first approached Yeshiva Student Union Vice-President Yaakov Green with the request that the Student Union help organize a mission to Israel for the then-upcoming Purim holiday, on Tuesday, March 12.  “I laughed at the idea,” says Green, “and told [Shachter] it couldn’t be done – we didn’t have the money.”

Despite Green’s initial skepticism, Shachter decided to search elsewhere for funding.  While speaking to MSDCS Coordinator of Youth and Outreach Services Rabbi Ari Rockoff, Shachter learned that Ramaz High School had assembled a delegation of approximately 100 students that was set to depart on Sunday, March 16 and cancelled their trip for security reasons.  Rockoff suggested that Shachter broker a deal with El Al airlines for those very 100 seats.

Within the next few hours, Shachter, Green and Sy Syms junior Eli Renov secured the seats and began searching for funding.  Flyers urging students to sign up via the internet for Operation Torah Shield III sprung up on the the Wilf and Midtown Campuses shortly after. 

The sign-up sheet was posted online at 9:30 P.M.  By 11:30, Green reported that 260 people had signed up.  By night’s end, there were 380 reservations for 100 spots.  Students were then selected on a first-come-first-serve basis, with two mitigating criteria: The trip had to be divided evenly between both campuses, and as many of the Israeli Yshivot as possible had to have student representation, as a major component of the trip was studying at students’ yeshivas in Israel. 

The event came together with astonishing speed.  Shachter attributes that to the fact that “We all wanted it so badly, and we never for a second lost focus.”  Shachter went on to reveal that funding for the expedition was not secured until the Thursday night prior to the date of departure and was not actually received until Friday, one day later.  The donor, who resides in Florida, also financed Operation Torah Shield I and II, the blueprints for the most recent mission.

The students departed JFK on Sunday, March 16, after receiving a lavish farewell celebration hosted by El Al airlines.  Many members of the Yeshiva community accompanied the delegation to the airport, including President and Rosh Hayeshiva Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm and Roshei Yeshivas Rabbis Hershel Schachter, Mordechai Willig and Zevulun Charlop.  Additionally, Roshei Yeshivas Rabbis Reichman and Feldman accompanied the students to Israel as part of the mission.  Finally, Dov Heikand, Brooklyn state Assemblyman, and Jerusalem Reclamation Project President Joseph Frager, who was the middleman for securing the large subsidies, also accompanied the students.

After arriving in Israel on Monday, the group hastily made their way to a ceremony at the Kotel.  The Ministry of Tourism facilitated the trip, providing gas masks in case of an Iraqi scud missile attack and assurances that the students would be attended to in case of emergencies. 

Citing the themes of past Operation Torah Shields as part of the motor for their success, this year’s organizers chose to combine the themes of the past two missions for this year’s.  “Whereas the theme for (Operation Torah Shield) I was learning during the Gulf War, and for (Operations Torah Shield) II it was touring Israel for the purpose of showing solidarity, we did an excellent job incorporating both,” noted Shachter. 

On Wednesday, the students reassembled from their sixteen respective yeshivos for what was undoubtedly the trip’s climax.  In honor of Shushan Purim, 600 terror victims and their families were treated to a festive meal and a carnival in Be’er Sheva.  “I will never forget that day and what we did for them,” said one participant.  According to another student, “This not only had an impact on them, it had a tremendous impact on me.” 

Both Shachter and Green simultaneously proclaimed Wednesday to be “the absolute highlight of the trip.” 

Other activities included delivering Sahlach Manot to soldiers and hospital patients, a blood drive on Friday, and a Shabbaton in the Kings Hotel with guests Rabbi Kevi and Shani Taragin, residents of the Alon Shevut settlement of Gush Etzion.  Finally, Saturday night featured a Chaim Dovid concert capping off a long and arduous week of incessant activity. 

Summing up the success of the mission, Shachter said, “It was a life-changing experience for all.”¨


Photo Caption: The Commentator Archives

Photo Credit: The Commentator