Like most college students, I regularly check my cell phone when I’m bored in lecture. This past Wednesday, while going about my regular routine of scrolling through texts and snapchats from friends, I came across an article that one of my friends sent me. As I clicked on the link, my eyes saw a headline that caused me to cringe: “Exclusive,” the headline read, “U.S. Teen Slain in Terror Attack Was on Way to Volunteer at Illegal West Bank Outpost.” This article, published by Haaretz, went on to question the integrity of Yeshivat Ashreinu for allowing their students to travel to Gush Etzion, and specifically the “illegal outpost” of Oz Ve’Gaon. As a proud alumnus of Yeshivat Ashreinu, I am disgusted that a major media outlet would publish an article that places any sort of blame on Ashreinu for the murder of Ezra Schwartz.
The fact that there is a question about the ethics of sending Ashreinu students to perform their daily chesed at Oz Ve’Gaon, a park in memory of the three boys who were kidnapped and murdered last summer by Palestinian terrorists, absolutely sickens me. As the article points out, the park is currently in the process of being legalized; something that often requires a lot of time due to bureaucratic red tape. Even Hagit Ofran, the director of the Settlement Watch project at Peace Now, admits that sending students to Oz Ve’Gaon is not the same as sending them to an outpost that is not in the process of legalization.
Central to Ashreinu’s mission are the values of Torah, Chesed, and Eretz Yisrael. These values are on full display in the inspiring classes, chesed opportunities, and weekly trips at Ashreinu. These same values were alive when a van full of Ashreinu students were on their way to help build a park in memory of Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali. Instead of condemning Ashreinu for sending its students to Oz Ve’Gaon, we should be applauding Ashreinu for sending its students to volunteer at such an important and special place.
What makes me most angry is that Haaretz chose to publish an “exclusive” story that vilifies Ashreinu instead of focusing on the actual problem of Palestinian terror and incitement, of which Ezra was tragically a victim. Ezra was killed because he was a Jew, not because he was on his way to an “illegal outpost.” Palestinian terror does not distinguish between legal and illegal outposts, between Judea and Samaria and Tel Aviv. Its sole goal is to kill Jews wherever they may be; suggesting otherwise is ludicrous.
My year at Ashreinu was the most formative and impactful year of my life. Ashreinu taught me the importance of Ahavat Yisrael, and strengthened my personal connection to the people and Land of Israel. Ashreinu has inspired me to live a more passionate and compassionate Jewish life, something for which I am eternally grateful. Haaretz can publish as many slanderous articles about Ashreinu as they want, but they will never grasp the immeasurable positive impact that Ashreinu has on its students and its community.