In 2017, OTS launched a pioneering hesder yeshiva in the Galilean city of Carmiel which combines traditional Torah study with a significant emphasis on character development, personal growth, and a dedication to social involvement in the community. Now, four years later, the yeshiva is witnessing the return of students from the first cohort who have just completed their full active duty in the IDF.
“The truth is, I don’t really feel like I ever left Metivta,” confides Elyashiv Kaufman, 22, who until recently served as a combat soldier in the Nachal Brigade. “Rav Netanel [Lederberg, Metivta’s Rosh Yeshiva] was with us every step of the way during our service, visiting us on base, coming to our ceremonies, and remaining in touch to check in and respond to our questions. Most recently, I was serving in the north and whenever I made my way home for Shabbat, I would always stop first for a quick visit at Metivta – my home away from home.”
From the very beginning, it was Rabbi Lederberg’s dream that his students would be inspired to return to yeshiva after their military service, and he is thrilled to see this dream realized. He is also encouraged by the enrollment of several other recently discharged soldiers who have now joined the yeshiva, drawn by Metivta’s reputation for a personal and well-rounded approach to Jewish development.
“Metivta emphasizes the integration of Torah into our daily lives in the simplest and most important of ways,” explains Kaufman. “It includes being a healthy person – physically, emotionally and spiritually.”
In addition to learning Gemara, students cook their meals together, do yoga, and initiate projects to help the local community of Carmiel. Learning the halakhot connected to various interpersonal and familial relationships includes discussions about healthy communication. The emphasis is on creating well-rounded people who approach Torah from a perspective of humility and a focus on improving themselves, their relationships and the world around them. “Metivta focuses on Torah learning as part of a holistic development of the entire person. We are interested in students who want to integrate growth in Torah with their growth as an individual because, really, that is what Torah is all about,” summarizes Rabbi Lederberg.
“I had never experienced this approach to Torah before coming to Metiva,” says Kaufman. “It became part of me, and I became part of the place. For the first time, I was excited to learn. I couldn’t imagine not coming back.”
A special, more intensive Torah study program has been developed for the older students like Kaufman who will be remaining, in most cases, for a year before beginning the next stage in their lives. The presence of the post-IDF group also imbues the yeshiva with a new, positive energy and serves as a source of example to the younger students.
“Seeing how the older students really maximize their time here is inspiring for the rest of us,” says Benji Rosenfeld, a shana aleph (first-year) student. “It encourages us to make the most of our time here, as well.”