When was the last time you heard a debate so passionate and relevant and yet simultaneously so deep and cultured? On Rosh Chodesh Adar 1, such a debate took place at OTS Ulpanat Oriya. The discussion represented the meeting point of two educational conversations taking place at the school this year; the first focusing on the sanctity of the Shabbat, and the second on the responsibility of the individual in the public sphere and the influence of the public sphere on the individual.
The event was launched by the ninth grade’s musicians (a band they initiated and formed on their own), following which the school’s debate team held a public trial on the subject of Shabbat in the public realm.
For the sake of the discussion, a theoretical incident was invented in which an investor wanted to open a restaurant at Gush Etzion junction which would be open on Shabbat. Videotaped testimony was brought from Gush Etzion Mayor Davidi Perl and from Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi, from OTS Chancellor and Efrat Chief Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and others.
The OTS Oriya debate team (the only ulpana debate team in the country!), Yarden Ohana, Shaked Gabbai, Tzvia Guggenheim, Eden Barash and Reut Batya Trattner, sharpened their tongues and stunned the spellbound audience with their arguments. Under the guidance of their debate teacher, Shlomit Gershoni, they talked about the Jewish character of the state of Israel after 2000 years in exile, about Democracy and Pluralism, about the future of our youth, about the Israeli character of Gush Etzion, and about many other diverse and relevant subjects.
The public trial was presided over by three judges from the school’s parent body: Advocate Shlomit Turpaz spoke about the political upheavals that have taken place in Jerusalem due to the same discussions occupying the students at present; Dr. Yehuda Yifrach, legal correspondent for the Makor Rishon newspaper, spoke about the social influences on employees who work on Shabbat; and Rabbi Yoni Hollander, Principal of OTS’s Jacob Sapirstein High School in Ramot, Jerusalem, related to the future Jewish character of the State of Israel as the result of current decisions.
At the conclusion of the intense debate, a large majority of the audience voted for deepening the Jewish character of Israel, even expressing the importance of anchoring it in law. As for the definition of Shabbat in the state’s public realm, here the audience’s response was more diverse, though the clear majority felt that the character of Shabbat must be preserved in areas where the majority of residents are religious.
The public trial highlighted the individual’s responsibility to look beyond his or her own space and to concern him or herself with the character of the public realm. At the same time, the holiness and sanctity of Shabbat was greatly heightened and showcased with greater appreciation.