“And all your children [בָּנַיִךְ, banayikh] shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children” (Isaiah 54:13).
Given that the words of the Tanach are written without vowels, the Sages were able to interpret this verse differently. Rather than reading the word בָּנַיִךְ as “children” [banayikh], we should read it as “your builders” [bonayikh].
At Hadassah’s Youth Aliyah villages, we prepare children to be the builders of a just and ethical Israeli society. We don’t merely provide a roof over their heads. We give them the foundation of Jewish values and ethics. We give them the solid flooring of vocational training and academic education so that they can go out into the world as productive citizens.
And we give them both structure and discipline, the support beams that so many of them arrive at the villages without, having come from families riven by strife, violence, and poverty.
It really is most appropriate that on we talk about foundations, walls, and roofs, having just celebrated the festival of Sukkot. After all, the sukkah that we Jews inhabit during the autumn harvest festival represents the fragility of life. The winds blow and the rains fall, leaving its dwellers vulnerable to the elements. Luckily, most of us only have to live in a sukkah eight days of the year. Abuse and neglect victims are living in a metaphorical one every day, never knowing when a gust of abuse will sweep away the sparse protection over their heads.
When these now-teens graduate from our Youth Aliyah villages, almost every one of them serves in the IDF. When their service is complete, some go on to higher education while others go into the trades. But they are all equipped with everything they need to be builders themselves.
Our children are the builders of Israel’s future.