The academic Hesder Yeshiva, HaMeiri, situated in Jerusalem, was founded by the Rishon LeTziyon, the Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu, zt”l. One of the most meaningful yeshiva experiences of the students each year was that they would accompany Rav Eliahu on his journeys to Hebron to prostrate himself in prayer at the graves of the Patriarchs. During each such trip, before the prayer, the students would receive a tour and lecture from the Hebron Heritage Center. That organization is engaged throughout the year in bringing all sorts of Jews closer to the City of the Patriarchs and to our Jewish heritage – VIPs, soldiers, educators, teachers and school principals – tapping into their spiritual DNA – their descent from the Matriarchs and Patriarchs of our people.
The yeshiva prepares its students academically to be educators while they simultaneously serve as soldiers in the very finest combat units of the Israel Defense Forces. Upon completion of their studies, they are equipped with official academic teaching degrees of the Israeli Education Ministry. On this background, Rabbi Eliahu, of blessed memory, asked his bureau chief, the Rosh Yeshiva of HaMeiri, Rabbi Shmuel Za’afrani, to link up the yeshiva’s students with the Hebron Heritage Center so that they could be prepared as faithful ambassadors on Hebron’s behalf, infused with the spirit of the Patriarchs. Then, on completion of their studies, when each one set out for his school and community as a teacher and educator to the Jewish People, they would imbue their pupils and all those around them with the spirit and the heritage of the Patriarchs, whether through lectures or through organized tours of Hebron.
When Rabbi Yigal Kutai retired from public service as director of the Community Center in Kiryat Arba Hebron, the Rosh Yeshiva approached him and asked that he carry out the Chief Rabbi’s request and seek to foster an attachment between his educators-in-training and the City of the Patriarchs through regular lectures in the yeshiva. Following two years of success in this endeavor, the Rosh Yeshiva and the head of the academic institution petitioned Rabbi Kutai to serve as Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat HaMeiri in conjunction with Rabbi Za'afrani, and to run an organized academic program preparing the yeshiva’s students as faithful ambassadors of the City of the Patriarchs and of our Patriarchal tradition in reaching out to our fellow Jews and bringing them closer to Hebron, both during their army service in the IDF, and on completing their studies when they set out to work as qualified teachers in schools throughout Israel – in both the religious and the secular streams.
The Hebron Heritage Center, headed by Rabbi Yigal Kutai, answered this important challenge and undertook this national project. Already at present, a comprehensive study program, built upon this vision, has been inaugurated at Yeshivat HaMeiri. This program is operating in addition to the ongoing activities of the Hebron Heritage Center with VIPs, educators, soldiers, etc.
Additionally, starting from next year, the yeshiva will be teaching a group of students from the United States who are coming for a year of spiritual growth and to foster their attachment to the Land and People of Israel. Under the aegis of that program, they will receive lectures in the yeshiva and participate in tours of Hebron, and will absorb the Patriarchal heritage. Wherever they go, they will hopefully serve as ambassadors of this idea and this pathway.