Post 305: Attending a party in Betar Elit, comparisons with neighboring Husan, and recommendation to visit the exhibit The Place at the Brooklyn Museum, Reflections on Israel’s 68th Birthday Rav Eliyahu of Vilna lived in the 18th C the Gra, as he is known urged his students to immigrate to Israel and settle there.

Husan and Betar Elit a kilometer apart.

In 1978, Husan had a total land area of 7,134 dunams. Since the establishment of Betar Illit which took up 4,299.38026 dunams and land expropriations by the Israeli Defense Forces, the town has been downsized to 1,425 dunams. 

Population of the two areas according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS):

The total population of Husan in 2007 was 5,551; of which 2,942 are males and 2,609 are females. There are 1,028 households living in 1,195 housing units.

Beitar Illit on the other hand is one of Israel‘s largest and most rapidly growing cities and in 2014 had a population of 46,874.

There is no wall separating the two communities, and I hope that there will not be any. However, visibly, the two areas each are their own enclave.


I have some problems separating Israel and the disputed areas . As of July 2015  this disputed area had a estimated population of 2,785,366 Palestinians, and approximately 371,000 ISRAELIS  and approximately another 212,000 Jewish Israelis in East Jerusalem. It’s kind of amusing, because if one asked any of the residents of these areas of Jerusalem if the lived in a “disputed” area, they would not know what you were talking about.

East Talpiot תלפיות
French Hill הגבעה הצרפתית
Gilo גילֹה
Giv’at Hamivtar גבעת המבתר
Har Homa, Givat Hamatos הר חומה
Ma’alot Dafna מעלות דפנה
Neve Yaakov נווה יעקב
Pisgat Ze’ev פסגת זאב
Ramat Eshkol רמת אשכול
Ramat Shlomo רמת שלמה
Ramot רמות אלון
Sanhedria Murhevet
Settlement Population City status granted
18,638 (2012[1]) 1998
Beitar Illit
ביתר עילית
45,710 (2013[2]) n/a
Ma’ale Adumim
מעלה אדומים
39,200 (2013) 1991
Modi’in Illit
מודיעין עילית
59,332 (2012) 2008

Lastly, an Exhibit that I would visit if I were in New York City and some reflections on Israel’s 68th Birthday.

Rav Eliyahu of Vilna lived in the 18th Century the Gra, as he is known, urged his students to immigrate to Israel and settle there.

This Place FEBRUARY 12–JUNE 5, 2016

“Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing, 4th Fl. This Place explores the complexity of Israel and the West Bank, as place and metaphor, through the eyes of twelve internationally acclaimed photographers. “

Featuring more than 600 photographs by Frédéric Brenner, Wendy Ewald, Martin Kollar, Josef Koudelka, Jungjin Lee, Gilles Peress, Fazal Sheikh, Stephen Shore, Rosalind Fox Solomon, Thomas Struth, Jeff Wall, and Nick Waplington, This Place offers  an intricate and fragmented portrait, alive to all the rifts and paradoxes of this important and much contested place.

I wonder if there is a single photo of the residents of Betar.

Between 2009 and 2012, the twelve artists spent extended periods in Israel and the West Bank, free to approach their subjects as they chose. They travelled throughout the region and engaged with a remarkable variety of individuals and communities. While the exhibition presents twelve distinct perspectives, several key themes emerged, such as family, identity, home, and landscape and the environment.

‬‏דווח על תמונות
תוצאת תמונה עבור ‪frederic brenner portrait three generations of israeli family‬‏
תוצאת תמונה עבור ‪frederic brenner portrait three generations of israeli family‬‏
תוצאת תמונה עבור ‪frederic brenner portrait three generations of israeli family‬‏
תוצאת תמונה עבור ‪frederic brenner portrait three generations of israeli family‬‏
תוצאת תמונה עבור ‪frederic brenner portrait three generations of israeli family‬‏

Only a fraction of the 50,000 to 100,00 photographs that they took are exhibited here; an entire room is devoted to them and they are arranged on rows of shelves by group, including Israeli girls in a pre-army mehina, or preparatory program, kids in a joint Arab-Jewish school, Druze students, grandmothers from East Jerusalem and Gypsies.

Hi All,

This past week, Israel celebrated its 68th birthday and it is worth taking a step back to reflect and appreciate the magnitude of this blessing, not only for those of us who live here, but for Jews worldwide. In this spirit, I came across
a remarkable and quite astounding statement by the Gaon of Vilna, one which is both unsettling and challenging. This is not my usual
chizuk insight and I present it for your consideration.

Rav Eliyahu of Vilna lived in the 18th C. and was one of our greatest spiritual geniuses and righteous luminaries. He had not only mastered the entire rabbinic literature at a young age, but was equally knowledgeable in all our esoteric kabbalistic doctrines. His teachings have come down to us from his many students and, to this day, exert a powerful influence not only upon halachic practice but upon our entire theology as well.

In 1781, the Gra, as he is known, urged his students to immigrate to Israel and settle there. In
Kol HaTor, the record of the Gra’s views about how the End of Days will play out, his nephew and student writes how the Gaon would emotionally plead with his students not to delay their departure as only in Israel would there be a safe haven (5:1,2). Was the Gra almost prescient about a great tragedy about to decimate Diaspora Jewry? We do not know, but in any event, the Gaon was persuaded, based upon his understanding of our deeper literature that the time had come for the ingathering of the exiles. He was convinced, in stark contrast to many of his rabbinic contemporaries, that the final redemption required bold initiative on the part of the Jewish people. Gd would only act once man first contributed to that redemption. And to the Gra, this contribution was to begin with the settling of the Land. His students complied. They were the proto-religious Zionists, some 100 years before that denomination was ever coined.

Even more striking was the Gra’s kabbalistic analysis of the
Sefirah period. In particular, he took note of two dates in the 49 day count between
Pesach and Shavuos which were specifically endowed with a unique Divine effluence of mercy and great spiritual moment. Those days – and please remember, this was in the 18 C. – he identified as the 20th and 42nd days of the
Omer count. The 20th day of the Omer is the 5th of Iyar –
Yom Ha’atzmaut, and the 42nd day of the Omer is the 27th of Iyar, the first of two days of battle which, in 1967, resulted in the reunification of Jerusalem, celebrated on the second of those days,
Yom Yerushalayim. In fact, it was in 1822, intentionally on the 5th of Iyar that the students of the Gra began building their synagogue in Jerusalem.

Was the Gra clairvoyant about how history would unfold 150 years after his death? Do his religious insights – the
truths he felt he discovered – grant greater significance to the religious Zionist enterprise? Do these two dates take on a measure of deep spiritual meaning in addition to their historical momentousness? And if so, are we not impelled to ask ourselves
whether, like the students of the Gaon, we ought to seriously consider

I leave the questions open, but, on this Yom Ha’atzmaut, we at least owe it to ourselves to think about them and …, ask ourselves whether the time has come for us to give our own
aliyah serious consideration.

Article above By Jeff Bienenfeld

P.S. Incidentally, in case you haven’t seen it, I would strongly recommend reading this essay by Dov Lipman about Israel.


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