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:

We proudly believe in a religious Zionist ideology, which combines the twin values of Torah (Jewish values, learning and practice) and Avodah (living a Modern Orthodox lifestyle and contributing to the State of Israel) into one holistic vision. The ultimate realization of this vision is Aliyah, where we play our part in building our national and spiritual home. This vision is encompassed in the motto ‘Torah Va’Avodah’ – Torah & Work.

Starting in the 1929, a group of passionate youth formed what today is known as Bnei Akiva – a movement dedicated to growing oneself whilst growing the world around them. It has, and always will be, a movement for the youth, run by the youth. We aim to inspire all those within the movement to shift from being takers into givers as they contribute to their local community as well as to the Land of Israel.

The Avodah aspect of Bnei Akiva’s ideology, in the past, referred to the agricultural growth of the land. However, today, Bnei Akiva Alumni are present is all arenas of Israeli life, from hi-tech to education. This modernising shift has allowed Bnei Akiva’s ideology to remain relevant to the youth of the current generation as we hope to inculcate within every individual the centrality of Torah Ve’Avodah in their everyday lives.

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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