Our lives here in Israel absolutely crack me up at times. I’ve written many times about the youth group, Bnei Akiva, which the kids join in 4th grade. Matan and Yehuda are very active in it and they participate every Tuesday afternoon, every Shabbat afternoon and a number of other times during the year when there are trips and events.
So, about three weeks ago, Matan asked me if I could come over to the computer.
“Sure, what’s up.”
“I’m signing up for the Bejajajaj,” he explained.
“Um, the what?”
“You know, the Bejajaja.”
Hmmmm….and so the conversation continued for a bit. Finally, Matan, realizing that I wasn’t raised in this country or with this culture, explained that he was signing up for some eighth grade Bnei Akiva event. Apparently, each year the 8th graders from the ENTIRE COUNTRY (can you imagine?) get together to conquer some mountain near Tzfat.
So, he signed up and then I forgot about it. I’ve learned the hard way over the years that when Matan explains that he needs money to sign up for something with school or Bnei Akiva, he really does. During his first year in Bnei Akiva, there was one night where everyone very excitedly got their first Bnei Akiva shirts.
“Why don’t you have one, Matan?” I innocently asked.
“Because you told me I couldn’t have money when I asked you for it a few weeks ago. Don’t you remember?”
Oy – epic fail.
So, since then I’ve listened when he’s told me he needs money for this or that…including to sign up for the Bejajajaj.
Sunday, he reminded me that he wouldn’t be going to school on Tuesday because he would be conquering the mountain.
“Ok,” I said, trying not to laugh at my complete ignorance. “What do you need from me? What time are you going? When will you be back?”
So, yesterday, he was off with all of his friends. He was gone until midnight (midnight!) when he came home to wake me, declare that the trip was awesome, and go to sleep.
I went to work before he was up in the morning, so I didn’t have time to check in with him.
And then, I noticed on Facebook that Matan posted a video of the Biria (I think that’s what it’s called).
Awesome! I thought to myself. Now I can at least see where my son went yesterday.
Gotta love getting information about your son’s life from YouTube, other kids’ pictures and your imagination.
Of course, when I’ve mentioned this event to Israelis they all say, “Oh! The Biria! That’s so fun. Hope he had a good time.”
Yeah, the Biria. Oh sure, that thing.
When I came home from work, I fortunately got some more insights into his trip. So, as I should have known, the Biria Forest has a great history to it. As one website explained:
“In 1945 the land was settled by Bnei Akiva (religious youth movement) cadets and members of the religious unit of the Palmach (pre-IDF) underground movement cultivated the land, planted a forest and built a fortress. The fortress was built with double stone walls and included two watch towers. The people of Biria helped smuggle immigrants in from Syria to Eretz Israel. In February 1946 the British discovered arms caches on the outskirts of the camp, arrested the Biria members and took over the place. The Jewish population was enraged. About two weeks later, under the protection of the Hagana (another pre-IDF underground movement), 3,000 people arrived and built the place that became known as Biria Bet, close to the fortress. The British destroyed the new community too and dispersed its inhabitants. Five days later hundreds of people from the vicinity returned to start building up Biria for the third time. Faced with such tenacity and determination, the British Army retreated and simply let the settlers stay.”
For decades now, the kids from Bnei Akiva have been going to this site to learn about the land and about the fighters who came before them. They have a great time, and, as with so many Bnei Akiva events (and events in general in this country), the experience offers so much more than just fun.
So now I’m schooled in the Biria. Hopefully, by the time boy number 6 goes on these trips, I’ll actually know what’s going on ahead of time.
But with boy number 1?
No clue…none at all.