What is Bnei Akiva?

Bnei Akiva South Africa is a branch of the World Bnei Akiva Youth Movement, an education focused worldwide community, providing Jewish education, Israel education, life changing programmes and camps for over 125 000 members throughout the world. Originally founded in 1929, Bnei Akiva is currently the largest youth movement in the world. Over the last seven decades, Bnei Akiva South Africa has formed into the largest and most active youth movement in our country. Through love and dedication, the Bnei Akiva Madrichim continue to instill within our community’s youth a strong love for Judaism, a passion for Israel and a sense of responsibility to ones fellow man, which are the core values of the organisation.

We have centres in Joburg, Cape Town and Durban where weekly activities take place and where our dedicated madrichim bond and create connections with our chanichim while educating them in an informal and enjoyable way about Torah, Judaism and of course Eretz Yisrael!

Our Ideology

Bnei Akiva’s core values stem directly from our rich ideology.

A look at what we believe in
Torah Va’Avodah , which translates as Torah and work, is an ideal which we try to live our lives by. The learning, practising and teaching of Torah should be combined with a desire to build up and contribute to the Land of Israel as much as possible.

As a pioneering Religious Zionist youth movement, Bnei Akiva believes that it is a central commandment of Judaism to make Aliyah to the Land of Israel and maintains that the future of the Jewish people is tied to the State of Israel. Bnei Akiva feels that Jewish youth in the Diaspora should be educated to realise that the State of Israel needs them, and that they, in turn, need it. In the early years of pioneering, Avodah was clearly understood as meaning agricultural work, as reflected in the symbolism on the “Semel”. In more recent years, there has driven a shift in ideology towards a broader definition of working for the development of the country.

Similarly, the original socialist aims of Bnei Akiva are also taking more of a back-seat. Up to the 1980s many Bnei Akiva members joined religious Kibbutzim in Garinim (groups). They were either groups based on army service together in Nahal or they were groups that came on Aliyah to Israel together. Since the 1990s, Bnei Akiva members now typically settle in development towns, settlements and cities. They are active in all areas of Israeli life including security, hi-tech, education, academia and many more fields.

Our Semel

The “Semel”, Bnei Akiva’s emblem, is made up of different objects each relating to a different aspect of the group’s ideology. The farming utensils and the wheat sheaves relate to the original agricultural perspective of the ideology. The two tablets of stone in the center relate to the Torah perspective. The two perspectives of Torah and Avoda are united together by the ribbon which says Bnei Akiva on it – symbolizing that the two aspects can only and must work hand in hand. The letters on the two tablets are the Hebrew letters ‘Taf’ and ‘Ayin’ standing for Torah veAvoda (“Torah and work”).

Story of Rabbi Akiva

As the name translates – “the children of Akiva”, the idea of Bnei Akiva relates directly to the story of Rabbi Akiva. At the age of 40 years old, after growing up tending flock, he changed his ways and decided that he needed to find out the essence of the Jewish faith. The story is told of how it happened:

One day while attending to his flock, he noticed a rock onto which droplets of water kept dripping. He thought that if something as soft as water can penetrate this solid rock and cause it to erode, so can the Torah penetrate into me – a shepherd who at this time was solid in his ways. Thus we strive to be like Rabbi Akiva for his three qualities: (a) his love of Hashem, a steadfast devotion to the Torah and his ultimate martyrdom at the hands of the Romans, (b) his love of Israel and his fight for its independence, (c) his love of labour and his respect for it, remembering always his early life.

The Anthem

The Bnei Akiva anthem (himmnon in Hebrew), was composed by Rabbi Moshe Zvi Neriya (originally known as Chaver Minkin). He composed the anthem during the Chol Hamoed period of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, 1932, at a gathering of youth leaders in Kfar Saba.

Although the words have changed somewhat, there are very few Bnei Akiva occasions in which the anthem is not sung. The anthem, Yad Achim, is sung in Hebrew.

יד אחים לכם שלוחה, הנוער החביב
על דגלנו כולכם, חנו מסביב
יזהיר לכם כוכב תורה
דרככם סוגה בעבודה
בלב אמיץ ובעזרת ה´, עלה נעלה
קדימה בני-עקיבא, הידד במעלה

מולדת זו, ארץ אבות, ארצנו הקדושה
מידי אביר-יעקב לנו מורשה
ראשינו בעמקי תורתה
כפינו ברגבי אדמתה
בלב אמיץ ובעזרת ה´, עלה נעלה
קדימה בני-עקיבא, הידד במעלה

A brotherly hand is stretched out to you, O’ beloved youth,
Gather yourselves around our flag.
The star of the Torah shall shine for you,
Your path shall be one of labour.
With a sturdy heart, with the help of G-d, we will go up,
Forward, Bnei Akiva, forward to the heights!

This homeland, the holy Land of our fathers,
our heritage from the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob.
Our minds are steeped in her Torah,
Our hands are immersed in her soil.
With a sturdy heart, with the help of G-d, we will go up,
Forward, Bnei Akiva, forward to the heights!

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