BINA Center for Jewish Identity and Hebrew Culture 

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In This Issue


Tal Law Expires; BINA seeks pluralistic & just alternative

Tensions rise in African refugee situation; BINA responds 

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Quick Quotes
“In every American synagogue you have a big sign that says ‘Save Darfur.’ In south Tel Aviv all you have to do is look around you to see Darfur, to see thousands of refugees who have fled Darfur. This is Darfur. Here we are trying to save Darfur.” -  BINA Tikkun Olam Participant  

“The question was asked: ‘Which is greater - study or action?’.   Rabbi Tarfon replied: ‘Study is greater.’   Rabbi Akiva replied: ‘Action is greater.’   They [the rabbis] all replied: ‘Study is greater, when it leads to action.’” (Talmud, Kidushin 40b, BINA Translation)

“Shall your brothers go to fight while you sit here?!” (Numbers 32:6)


“Do not oppress the stranger; you should know the soul of the stranger, for you were once a stranger in the Land of Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9)


 Program Applications
Join Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv-Jaffa: Live and Volunteer in Israel’s Most Exciting City! 
Still accepting applications for 2012-13 -- see our website for details. 


BINA Social Action & Study in Tel Aviv - Gap Year Program for High School Graduates

Still accepting applications for 2012-13 -- see our website for details. 


BINA in the NEWS

Secular Yeshivas Seek to Join IDF's Hesder Program (Haaretz 02 Jul 2012) 

Which Yeshivot Have a Monopoly on the Spirit of Israel (The Marker Hebrew 04 Jul 2012) 

 All Media Coverage

Past Newsletters
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August 2012; Elul 5772    

Dear Friends of BINA,

This summer has been a very heated one in Israel, and it isn’t over yet.

In the Knesset, the famous (and infamous) Tal Law has expired and Knesset members are struggling to arrive at an alternative. The Tal Law is a key law in Israel in defining the relationship between the army and religion; it has allowed for the military deferral of ultra-orthodox Yeshiva students, while providing special arrangements and funding for Orthodox Hesder Yeshivot, and discriminating against non-Orthododox yeshivot such as BINA’s Secular Yeshiva. Read on to find out what BINA is doing to change the Tal Law and what you can do to help.

Meanwhile, tensions have been rising in south Tel Aviv and across Israel in regard to the growing African (Sudanese/Darfurian & Eritrean) refugee and asylum-seeker situation in Israel. Read on to find out what BINA is doing to help and how you can get involved.  

Wishing you a cool end-of-summer and a meaningful Elul of reflection, action, and change.

Noga Brenner Samia & Elliot Glassenberg
BINA External Relations |  


Tal Law Expires; BINA seeks pluralistic & just alternative, religious equality


On August 1, 2012 Israel’s infamous Tal Law expired.

Israel’s Supreme Court had ruled the Tal Law unconstitutional, preventing the Knesset from renewing it upon expiration and requiring a new law to be written. The law has already been expired for several weeks and Knesset members are struggling to reach an alternative. For several months BINA has been involved in an active campaign of public advocacy and political efforts to change the Tal Law to render it more just and egalitarian. Until now, the Tal Law has allowed for the draft deferral of tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Yeshiva students. The law has also allowed for government stipends for ultra-Orthodox Yeshiva students with deferrals, and special government funding for Orthodox Yeshivot whose students serve in the army, such as Hesder Yeshivot. The law was deemed discriminatory and unconstitutional because, among other thing, it grants special privileges and exemptions to a particular sector of Israeli society while discriminating against Israelis who do serve in the army and/or study in non-Orthodox institutions of learning, such as BINA.

BINA has been working to change the law so that non-Orthodox places of learning and their students, such as BINA’s Secular Yeshiva, can receive fair and equal government funding and benefits. Over the years, and especially in these summer months, BINA has been putting a great deal of time, energy, and resources into political lobbying efforts as well as public advocacy and educational campaigns to change the Tal Law, to grant justice and equality to BINA and all non-Orthodox and pluralistic places of Jewish learning and their students who serve their country, serve their community, and study Torah in all of its colors.

Donate now to help BINA in our campaign to change the Tal Law, and in our work every day for pluralism and social justice in Israel, and speak out in support of religious pluralism and justice in Israel.

Below are links and resources about the Tal Law and BINA’s efforts for reform:
- Secular Yeshivas Seek to Join IDF’s Hesder Program (Haaretz 02 Jul 2012)
- Which Yeshivot Have a Monopoly on the Spirit of Israel (The Marker Hebrew 04 Jul 2012)
- Activists Petition High Court (Haaretz 15 Aug 2012)
- Israel’s High Court Rules Tal Law Unconstitutional (Haaretz 21 Feb 2012)

For more articles and resources and the latest updates visit BINA on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.  



Left Photo: BINA Garin Nahal Participants, combining army service with study and community service through BINA.
Right Photo: Some of our BINA representatives at a recent demonstration for equal army service, at Tel HaShomer.


Tensions Rise in African Refugee Situation; BINA Responds  

Tensions rise in response to growing African refugee & asylum-seeker situation in south Tel Aviv and Israel; BINA responds with social action, calls for dialogue & responsibility.


Those who have been following the latest news from Israel know that tensions have reached a new peak this summer between Israeli authorities, veteran Israeli residents, and the growing population of African refugee and asylum-seekers in south Tel Aviv and across Israel. Since 2004, an estimated 60,000 African refugees and asylum seekers, mainly from Darfur/Sudan and Eritrea, have come to Israel. The majority reside in the already underprivileged neighborhoods of south Tel Aviv, which have been struggling to cope with this influx. This summer violent and nonviolent protests have erupted between veteran Israeli residents, refugees, and their supporters; while amid much controversy Israel has begun the deportation of South Sudanese/Darfurian asylum-seekers and has begun construction of an expanded detention facility in the Negev as well as an expanded border fence with Egypt.

BINA has been working with the African asylum-seeker population in south Tel Aviv since its beginning, and has been active in supporting the existing communities of south Tel Aviv since even before. The conflict between these populations has challenged BINA to find an appropriate balance between our commitment to the Jewish underserved residents of south Tel-Aviv ("take heed unto yourselves" (Dt. 4:15)), and our Jewish obligation to "love the stranger for you were strangers in the land of Egypt" . We have responded to this challenge by continuing our work with both the refugee and local communities, and by augmenting our educational and public efforts for dialogue, human (and workers') rights and just allocation of resources.


What BINA is Doing:

BINA has engaged with the African asylum-seeker and refugee situation in south Tel Aviv locally, educationally, and publicly since the beginning of the present situation.

Locally, BINA and its volunteers have been working in south Tel Aviv since the inception of the BINA BaSchunah (“Wisdom in the Neighborhood) community program in 2001. BINA has become even more involved in the communities of south Tel Aviv since the establishment of the Secular Yeshiva in 2006 in the neighborhood of Neve Sha’anan. BINA volunteers work with the diverse populations of south Tel Aviv, from infants to the elderly, from veteran Israelis to Jewish immigrants, from work immigrants to refugees. Many BINA alumni have chosen to continue to live and volunteer in south Tel Aviv, many of whom serve as important voices for moderation, reconciliation, and empowerment as tensions have risen.

Educationally, all of our program participants, as well as our many visitors, learn about and see with their own eyes the refugees of south Tel Aviv. In the spirit of BINA, this learning is inspired by - and in dialogue with - Jewish sources from ancient to modern. The philosophy of BINA has always been one of “Limud u’Ma’ase” (Study & Action), which is to say, action that is inspired by study, and study that is enriched by real experiences. In that vein, we ask ourselves questions such as, what do Jewish sources and experience tell us about refugees? Do we have an obligation to African asylum-seekers? What about veteran Jewish Israelis? What does it mean to have a Jewish State based on Jewish values? While certain members of Knesset and others use Jewish language as a basis for xenophobia and incitement, at BINA we strive to find and share Jewish language for compassion, empathy, moderation, and understanding.

Publicly, BINA is currently in the process of drafting a position paper on the African refugee asylum-seeker situation in south Tel Aviv and Israel. BINA has been a voice for understanding and dialogue, carefully attending to the needs of the local community while speaking out against racism and violence. Dozens of BINA community members have been involved in demonstrations against racism as well as community dialogue initiatives. For years BINA has worked with - and put pressure on - various institutions in Israel calling for greater attention and increased support for the too oft neglected communities of south Tel Aviv and across Israel. BINA always has and will continue to be a voice for pluralism, understanding, and justice in Israel.


Some of the BINA principles that will guide our position paper:
- A commitment to the Jewish value of aiding the stranger for we were once strangers and refugees; at the same time recognizing the needs of Israel’s existing residents and citizens and Israel’s need for a secure border.
- A commitment to the Tzelem Elohim (Divine Image) and human dignity of every human being, be they Jewish, Israeli, or any other nationality.
- A commitment to dialogue and an openness and respect for diversity of opinion (Elu v’Elu).
- A commitment to nonviolence (MiPnei Darkei Shalom).
- A belief in mutual responsibility (Arevut Hadadit, Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh LaZeh); we and all Israelis and Jews are responsible for one another, we share a responsibility for all residents of Israel, have a responsibility to the Jewish State and the State has a responsibility to all of us.


It is no coincidence that BINA chose to build its first Secular Yeshiva in Neve Sha’anan, in the heart of south Tel Aviv, amidst some of the communities of greatest need - and greatest diversity - in Israel, and now home to Israel’s largest refugee population. The windows of our Beit Midrash are always open to the world around us and this has not always been easy. Still, we will continue to serve our community, inspired by Jewish values of social justice and action, and will continue to do our part to make Israel a more pluralistic and just Jewish State.


How You Can Get Involved:

Tze U’Lmad - Come & See: If you are in Israel or are planning to be in Israel, you can come to BINA to learn more about the refugee situation, and different ways to contribute and volunteer. BINA leads facilitated tours and study sessions relating to the refugee situation through a pluralistic Jewish approach; study sessions can include encounters with members of the refugee community or refugee-aid community. To arrange an individual or group visit contact Noga Brenner Samia, Director of External Relations:

Volunteer: BINA and the diverse communities of south Tel Aviv are in great need of volunteers. If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering, you can contact BINA or visit our website to learn about various volunteer opportunities and programs for Israelis and non-Israelis.

Lilmod U’Lelamed / Learn & Educate: Wherever you are, you can educate yourself and others about the refugee situation in Israel and about Jewish obligations for compassion. BINA will soon be launching a BINA Seminars website with up-to-date information about the situation in south Tel Aviv, as well as resources for teaching and learning, so please check our website for updates. You can also follow BINA and be a part of the conversation on Facebook or Twitter with latest news from BINA and south Tel Aviv. 

Donate: Donate now to help support BINA’s programs, our work with the diverse populations of south Tel Aviv, and our efforts to make Israel a more pluralistic and just society for all. For more information on how to make a tax-deductible donation, click here.


Click on the following links to learn more about the refugee situation in south Tel Aviv and what BINA is doing to help:
- Tisha B’Av with African Asylum Seekers (Times of Israel, 29 July 2012, featuring BINA Tikkun Olam participant Tyler Fishbone).
- Sundays at Day Care (Masa Israel Blog entry by BINA Tikkun Olam Participant Tyler Fishbone, 10 May 2012).
- Israel’s African Question (Haaretz, 20 July 2012).
- “Out of Egypt” (a stirring music video by Israeli artist Alma Zohar, which in the spirit of BINA, uses Jewish sources for the contemporary challenge of the refugee situation.) 

For more articles and resources and the latest updates visit BINA on Facebook or follow us on Twitter


Tikkun Olam Volunteer Tyler Fishbone with asylum-seeker child in south Tel Aviv day care center

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Thank you! Toda Raba!

BINA's activities are generously supported by UJA Federation of New York, The Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, the Champaign-Urbana Jewish Community, UJC Metrowest, the New Israel Fund, Avi Chai, Repair the World, JAFI-MASA, The Gimprich Foundation, The Levi Lassen Foundation, The Posen Foundation and other private donors and foundations in Israel and abroad. For a complete list, visit BINA is sponsored by the Kibbutz Movement and operates out of the registered Israeli non-profit - "Merchavim Hevra Lechinuch Vetarbut" (חל"צ).


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