Categorized | Middle East

Saving souls at Kfar Zeitim

By Yoni Peres

Yoni Peres

KFAR ZEITIM, Israel — Avraham Herzlich was born and raised in Brooklyn in a secular Jewish family. He worked with computers, motorcycles and race cars. He was injured in a motorcycle accident. Lying in bed at the hospital, he was reading magazines, and came across an article on Israel which triggered his curiosity. He arrived in Israel in 1967 as a young tourist and fell in love with the state and the Jewish culture. He was told that Yemenite Jewry had the most authentic traditions and Hebrew dialect and decided to explore further.

Herzlich connected to Jews of Yemenite origin in Rosh Haayin, with the idea that this ethnic group is the closest one to the original Israelites. He then decided to travel over the country and ended up in Kfar Zeitim, near the Sea of Galilee, which had been populated as a labor camp in 1950 by olim from Yemen. In the beginning he lived in an old barn and worked as a shepherd. The lady who was the camp cook, liked the strange American with the Yemenite accent and made a Shidduch between him and her daughter Aviva.

After getting married, the young couple traveled around the world for several years, saved some money to buy a herd of goats and settled back in Kfar Zeitim. They raised 11 children and after a while, Herzlich thought that the village was “too much materialistic” and decided to be “closer to the real spiritual Eretz Israel” and wandered with his herd all the way to the settlement “Tapuach” (apple), near Ariel in the Shomron (Samaria). Later on, his wife and children joined him. However, his son Yehuda, preferred to stay at the farm in Kfar Zeitim and continued his father’s tradition of providing a shelter for problematic youngsters, who left their homes, seeking solutions for a better life.

The Haredi Rabbi Dov Frank from Bnei Brak realized that his son did not fit into the monotonous, demanding method of studying long hours at the Yeshiva. Understanding that there are probably more kids like his son, he began looking for an alternative. After searching for an appropriate location, he came across Yehuda, and rented his B&B rooms. Later on, due to financial difficulties, Yehuda took responsibility. In 2003 he established the yeshiva for children (males only, at this point) from the Haredi sector, aged 14 and up. It is now known that about 10% of the regular yeshiva students suffer from ADD /ADHD, or other learning difficulties.

In 2010, the yeshiva joined the Ort school chain and has been recognized by Israel’s ministry of economy, as an educational institute, qualifying graduates for a variety of professional certifications.  This is a very important breakthrough in the very rigid orthodox system.

Three main professions are taught: carpentry, electricity and computer technology.

computer classroom

Besides the instructors and teachers, the 140 current students are assisted by a staff of psychologists and social workers.

Carpentry area

In addition to professional training, the yeshiva provides other activities for the children, such as music, horseback riding and stable management, aviary and bird management, goat farming and cheese making, free range poultry, olive farming and olive oil production.

The students are guided to become responsible and independent. They take care of the cleaning, gardening, maintenance and cooking. The daily schedule begins with the Morning Prayer, followed by cleaning and maintenance. After breakfast, they go to classes – two hours of Bible and core studies and four hours of professional classes.

The majority of the graduates join the IDF at the age of 18, and continue to lead  “normal” life styles and establish decent families.

David Bloch is the head of the yeshiva, Yehuda Herzlich is in charge of development and Itamar Posen is the CFO and head of public relations.

Music Studio

Students with horses

David is Yehuda’s brother in law, by marriage to his sister. Benjamin Zeev Kahane, son of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, was married to Taliah, Yehuda’s sister. In 2000, Benjamin and Taliah were murdered by terrorists near Beit El in the Shomron region. Miraculously, none of their six children, who were in the car with their parents, was hurt. David and his wife adopted the 6 orphans and, together with their own, they have a family of 12 children.

Itamar Posen is the CFO and deals with PR and fundraising and administration. He has a rich experience in the Haredi education system, both in Jeeusalem an Bnei Brak.

From left, David Bloch, Itamar Posen and Yehuda Herzlich

These three persons, running the amazing facility, located in the Arbel valley, with a wonderful view of the Sea of Galilee, seem very enthusiastic and motivated in working towards their vision.

“He who saves one soul, is regarded as saving the whole world” says the Mishnah. In Kfar Zeitim , they save many souls, who could have been lost.

The Yeshiva is a nonprofit organization, and any means of support would be appreciated and blessed. I definitely recommend visiting this miraculous spot, to be impressed by their so important activity.

Here is more information, for readers who understand Hebrew:

Peres is a freelance writer based in the Tel Aviv area.






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One Response to “Saving souls at Kfar Zeitim”

  1. Jo says:

    Nice article, looks like a very special place.
    I found their web sight in English,i highly recommend!


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