“I am optimistic about our country’s future” – Tonight, We Don’t Learn Torah 2023
Israel Prize recipient Miriam Peretz: “We do not have the privilege of despair. We have an obligation to the generations that came before us and established a glorious country, and we have an obligation to the generations to come, our children and grandchildren.”
On the backdrop of current events and an atmosphere of a nation tearing itself apart, this year’s “Tonight, We Don’t Learn Torah” events were held in 18 locations across Israel under the banner, “Unifying or Collapsing?”
For the past 24 years, the “Tonight, We Don’t Learn Torah” Tisha B’Av programs have become a fixture of the Israeli landscape, as thousands of Israelis flock to participate in panel discussions across the country with a focus on issues of national unity and “selfless caring” for others. Ohr Torah Stone and its Monique and Mordecai Katz Yachad Program for Jewish Identity have been partners in the event for the past three years, alongside founding organization Sderot Conference for Society, and the Kaye Academic College.
The name of the program, which features prominent social and rabbinical figures, politicians, and media personalities, emanates from the well-known concept that on Tisha B’Av, traditional Torah learning is avoided and instead, Jews are encouraged to dedicate themselves to topics that will bring us closer together – an antidote to the baseless hatred which is associated with the destructions marked on this day.
Yachad coordinators running the event reported that the event was more well-attended than ever, and that tensions ran high – but optimism reigned.
“Our session was extremely heated,” testifies Miriam Kagan, a paticipant at one of the Jerusalem locations. “But the conversation reached unexpected depths, and there was an atmosphere of connection that was tremendously satisfying,” she says.
“It was really stormy, I had to stop the event several times to request that people speak with respect,” relates Kobi Passal, the Yachad program’s coordinator in Raanana. “But even after two and a half hours, no one wanted it to end. Tonight, I am optimistic about our country’s future, in spite of everything,” Passal concluded. “We must continue with our unifying activities.”
Other events took place in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Beer Sheva, Herzliya, Ariel, Modi’in and more.
The event in Ramat Gan was attended by Israel Prize recipient and twice-bereaved mother Miriam Peretz, who opened her remarks by connecting the events of recent times in Israel and the essence of Tisha B’Av.
“This year we felt the relevance of the words of Eicha to our nation and people,” she said. “Days of division, of great anxiety for the future of the Israeli unity that has been built here laboriously for 75 years.”
Along with a call for the people and leaders of the country to awaken before another destruction befalls us, Peretz also instilled hope in the audience. “We do not have the privilege of despair. We have an obligation to the generations that came before us and established a glorious country, and we have an obligation to the generations to come, our children and grandchildren.
“Out of this rift will emerge a new, respectful, empathetic and sensitive Israeli unity,” she maintained. “This Land belongs to us all and there is room in it for all opinions. We did it 75 years ago when we came home from the Diaspora and built a house of glory. And we will do it again!”