By Judah Rhine
While visiting Israel a number of years ago, David and Debra Segal visited the city of S’derot and met with Rabbi David Fendel, rosh yeshiva of the Hesder yeshiva there. On the rooftop of the yeshiva stood the amazing menorah made out of Kassam rockets that were fired from Gaza into southern Israel. Upon hearing this, Mr. Segal envisioned having such a menorah in the Five Towns.
Jason and Danielle Bokor, the Segals’ children, visited S’derot about three years ago and were equally moved by the menorah. When David Segal brought up his idea of replicating and bringing the menorah to their community, the Bokors agreed and said that it would be significant to have the menorah at HAFTR, where their children attend school. They decided to fund the project together.
They arranged with Rabbi Fendel to have Yaron Bob, the artist, commissioned to do the menorah. Yaron was excited about the project from the start. He assembled the menorah in his studio in S’derot, sending updates and pictures every few weeks. When all was set, they arranged to have the menorah shipped to HAFTR High School and welcomed Yaron to come in for 10 days to assemble and weld the menorah on site.
Danielle Bokor designed a base for the menorah and contacted local artisans that she deals with in her architecture practice about doing the job. Once they learned about the project, they all offered their services at no charge.
When Yaron came to HAFTR High School to assemble the menorah, he also took the time to meet and interact with the HAFTR students. He answered many questions, explained the situation in southern Israel, and described Yatid, the yishuv where he lives. He also did many projects with the students, including bending forks and wire into artwork of various shapes, such as snails, scorpions, and trees. Yaron has a true passion for his work that is evident to all who meet him. He has a website about his work at rocketsintoroses.com, where he explains how he came to this particular art and the meaning behind it.
On the fifth night of Chanukah, HAFTR hosted a dedication ceremony for the menorah. HAFTR parents and the community were invited for this spectacular event. Following welcoming remarks by Jason Bokor, Rabbi Oppen, principal of HAFTR High School, welcomed the attendees with divrei Torah and described the miracle of the Menorah Project. The program also included a video showing the intricate details of how the menorah was assembled on the HAFTR campus. The menorah was then lit, illuminating the sky for all to see. There was another brief video showing the lighting of the menorah on the rooftop of Yeshivat Hesder in S’derot, as well as the Chanukah celebration with the singing and dancing of the yeshiva students just days before. As a treat, latkes and sufganiot were served to all.
The highlight of the program featured Rabbi David Fendel, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Hesder in S’derot, who came to the U.S. in honor of this event. Rabbi Fendel expressed his profound appreciation to the Segal and Bokor families for their commitment and generosity in taking their idea and making it into a reality. Rabbi Fendel also spoke to the crowd about the rebirth of the city of S’derot since last year’s war and how the students of the yeshiva are vital components of the S’derot community. Yeshivat Hesder in S’derot is the largest Hesder yeshiva in Israel, with over 500 students. The yeshiva is housed in a beautiful rocket-proof beit midrash, which also served as the home base for the Gefen Special Forces Battalion, hosting 600 soldiers who dormed with the yeshiva students on the campus during Operation Protective Edge just last year. Rabbi Fendel concluded by saying, “Let our neighbors in Gaza see for themselves how we turn their hate and terror into a beacon of light, hope, and devotion.”
Additionally, HAFTR has undertaken a project to dedicate a safe room in the new dormitories at the yeshiva. This will further serve to form a strong bond between Yeshivat Hesder in S’derot and the HAFTR family.
The menorah means a great deal to the Five Towns community. This newsworthy event drew the attention of two local news stations, WPIX Channel 11 and WNBC Channel 4 News.
As explained by Jason Bokor, “I believe the reason why the menorah has evoked such tremendous interest is the message that it sends. We are taking the instruments of war and terror used against innocent civilians and using them to make a menorah, which is a symbol of light and peace. In light of all that is going on today, whether it is in Israel, Paris, or San Bernardino, people want to see concrete statements that we will not let the evil people of this world win. Instead, we want to see good and peaceful times in our lifetime.”
For dedication opportunities of a S’derot menorah for your shul, school, or community, please contact Judah Rhine, American Friends of Sderot, at Judah@sderot.org.
Save the date. The 20th annual dinner to benefit Yeshivat Hesder in S’derot is scheduled for April 13, 2016.