Tuvia Book
Author, educator, Tour-Guide, artist

Birthright 2012: The “Pioneers and Heroes” Group

I recently guided the appropriately named “Pioneers and Heroes” Taglit-Birthright group for the “Amazing Israel” provider.  The educational rationale behind the ten day trip was to travel the length and breadth of Israel whilst studying about and learning from the lives and actions of the young pioneers and heroes who built up and defended our Jewish homeland.

In the north we marveled at how the early young eastern European pioneers (chalutzim) had transformed what Mark Twain described back in the 1860’s as a “heartbroken and dreary land” to the lush green paradise that stretched before our eyes.  In Jerusalem, at the Mt. Herzl military cemetery, we saw with our own tear-stained eyes, and the heard the stories about, the price we have paid, and continue to pay, to keep our homeland free.  On the fortress of Masada in the Judean Desert, after hearing the harrowing account of the demise of last free independent Jewish commonwealth (with the exception, in the early second century CE, of the brief three-year rule of Bar Kochba) for almost 1900 years, our entire group shouted out with all of their Jewish pride AM YISRAEL CHAI! (“The people of Israel live!”)  and we heard our own voices echo back across the chasm of the two thousand awful years which we did not have control of our destiny, and had to rely on the pity of our host nations.

Whilst studying about the heroic and selfless lives of Zionist icons such as Rachel Bluwstein, Chaim Nachman Bialik, Chana Szenesh, Eli Cohen, Jonathan Netanyahu, Alex Singer, Yitzchak Rabin, Natan Sharansky, Ilan and Assaf Ramon, Roi Klein and Michael Levin, among many others, my thoughts were turned to our own group.


Here were forty American Jews, many who came to Israel despite the “wise” advice of their concerned parents and friends back home, who had chosen to boldly fulfill the first commandment the first Jews Abraham and Sarah received, that of Lech Lecha (“you go”).  They came as pilgrims to explore the land and our traditions, and to meet the people of the land.  They left overwhelmed by the glory of Israel,  truly feeling the importance of being links in the chain of Jewish continuity. They met, and travelled with, eight Israeli peers, defenders of our land, and were amazed by their willingness to give the best years of their lives, and if necessary their very lives themselves, to keep the torch of Jewish freedom burning bright.  Truly these Israeli youth carry on the tradition of the Jewish pioneers and heroes who came to give and not to take, and are so selfless in their pursuit of a better future for the Jewish people.


About the Author
Dr. Tuvia Book was born in London and raised in both the UK and South Africa. After making Aliya at the age of 17 and studying in Yeshiva he volunteered for the IDF, where he served in an elite combat unit. Upon his discharge he completed his BA at Bar-Ilan University, as well as certification in graphic design. He then served as the Information Officer at the Israeli Consulate of Philadelphia, while earning a graduate degree in Jewish Studies. Upon his return to Israel, Dr. Book graduated from a course of study with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, and is a licensed tour guide. Tuvia has been working in the field of Jewish Education, both formal and informal, for many years. He has guided and taught Jewish students and educators from around the English-speaking world for some of Israel’s premier educational institutions and programs. Tuvia has been guiding groups for Birthright Israel since its inception and, in addition, has lectured throughout North America, Australia, Europe and South Africa. Tuvia served as a Shaliach (emissary) for the Jewish Agency for Israel as the Director of Israel and Zionist Education at the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York (Jewish Education Project). He was a lecturer/educational guide at the Alexander Muss Institute for Israel Education (AMIIE) in Israel for a decade. Tuvia has lectured at both Bar Ilan University and Hebrew University. He is the author (and illustrator) of the internationally acclaimed Zionism curriculum; “For the Sake of Zion; A Curriculum of Israel Education” (fifth edition, 2017, Koren) and is at present working on his next book, a history of the Jewish people. Tuvia has a doctorate in Israel education. His dissertation title is: “Through the Soldiers’ Eyes: Exploring the Influence of a Birthright Mifgash on the Israeli Soldier Participants.”