Jerusalem – After missiles began to fall in Ashkelon and Ashdod two Shabbosim ago, yeshivos all over the south coast and the Negev had to decide whether to remain in place or to relocate to safer pastures.
Grodno Yeshiva in Ashdod
In Ashdod last Tuesday, a missile fell a short way from the chareidi neighborhood close to the Grodno yeshivas, a mere few meters from the homes of avreichim. A messenger was sent to ask Rav Elyashiv what the yeshiva should do. Rav Elyashiv instructed that bochurim who for one reason or another were not in yeshiva should remain at home and study in their hometowns as long as their hasmada would not be affected, while bochurim still in yeshiva should follow their rosh yeshiva’s instructions.
Despite the first missile falling, the yeshiva’s administration felt the situation was still relatively calm. Rav Tzvi Karlenstein gathered his yeshiva and told them that the yeshiva would be maintaining its sedorim as usual. Whenever a siren would go off, the bochurim should head for the shelters which existed in each of the yeshiva’s buildings. Any bochur whose parents were worried, could return home.
The instructions changed that night, after Rav Karlenstein consulted with Rav Elyashiv and told him that another missile had fallen in the area of the yeshiva. Rav Elyashiv replied that the fact that several missiles had fallen near the yeshiva conferred on it a status as a “makom mesukan” and the yeshiva should relocate to a safer area.
The yeshiva moved to the Heichal Malchus banquet hall on Shlomo Hamelech street in Bnei Brak. Chaos reigned on Wednesday morning, with suitcases piled high at the entrance, and no one sure if this would be the first or the last stop of the yeshiva’s exile. The bochurim quickly made themselves at home and returned to their studies and seforim on the banquet hall tables. No one paid attention to the dozens of gawking onlookers who had come to see the displaced bochurim.
Bochurim who lived in Bnei Brak were sent to sleep in their parents’ home, some boys were placed by householders who offered to put up the boys, and other boys were given fold-up beds to sleep on at the banquet hall.
Grodno’s yeshiva ketana relocated to Chanichei Yeshivos shul in Pardes Katz. The kolel remained in Ashdod, where many of the avreichim are still living.
Ironically, Grodno had taken in the Gerrer yeshiva from the north that had fled from missiles in the Second Lebanon War 2 1/2 years ago. Now it was going into exile itself for the same reason.
The Pittsburgh Yeshiva in Ashdod
The missile that had fallen near the Grodno yeshiva also fell in close proximity to the Pittsburgh yeshiva. Although the yeshiva had originally planned to stay in the city, after a few days of daily siren warnings and missiles falling, it was decided to relocate the yeshiva gedola, particularly since many of whose students come from outside of the country and their parents were hysterical. In contrast, most of the students of the Pittsburgh yeshiva ketana come from Ashdod homes, so the yeshiva ketana remained in Ashdod close to their families. The talmidim are learning, eating and sleeping in a shelter.
On Tuesday evening, Rav Dan Segal was in the middle of giving a talk in the Tifrach yeshiva when the siren went off. Seconds later the bochurim heard a huge “Boom”, signalling that Tifrach had joined the circle of towns in danger from Gaza missiles. Rav Segal told the bochurim to remain in their seats, because “we are engaged in Torah study, and are protected.”
The yeshiva’s staff led by rosh yeshiva Rav Aviezer Piltz, decided to maintain the yeshiva’s sedorim as usual in the city. “Whoever’s parents are worried, tell them to phone me,” said the rosh yeshiva.
Nevertheless, because of possible danger, bochurim were told to sleep not in their caravans but in the dormitory building. Whoever was afraid to learn in the yeshiva hall, was permitted to study in the protected areas of the yeshiva.
Rav Chaim Kanievsky was asked whether the yeshiva should relocate and he replied a definite no.
Tifrach’s yeshiva ketana headed by Rav Yeshaya Karelitz, moved to the Shaarei Tzion yeshiva in Bnei Brak.
Hanegev Yeshiva has two branches, both right in the center of the missile zone — one in Sderot and one in Zeroa. The rosh yeshiva Rav Yissachar Meyer sent a messenger to ask Rav Steinman and Rav Chaim Kanievsky if they should remain or relocate to the center, and he received a reply that they should relocate until things calm down. The yeshiva moved to Nachalim yeshiva, which had room for the dozens of bochurim.
Belz Yeshiva in Ashdod and Beis Chilkiya
Bochurim studying in the Belz yeshiva in Ashdod were in Jerusalem over Chanukah and told to remain there. Since the yeshiva’s dorms are located in caravans which afford no protection from missiles, and Home Front instructions require educational institutions located in such structures to close their doors, the students are now studying in Belz’s large beis midrash in Jerusalem. The Belz yeshiva in Beis Chilkiya also moved to Jerusalem.
The Ashkelon yeshiva headed by Rav Nachum Tzvi Pavlov and Rav Aaron ben Yaakov, is continuing its studies in protected areas. Since most of the students are from Ashkelon, which have received several missile hits during the past year, they are already used to the sirens and have established a modus operandi to deal with them. Their yeshiva ketana which is located in Otzem moshav nearby was closed by orders of the Home Front.
The roshei yeshivos want to move the yeshiva to safer grounds, but were not yet able to find a location. “We were offered a building in Ashdod,” says one of the roshei yeshiva, “but under the circumstances, that’s like going from the frying pan into the fire. We hope to find another solution.”
Missiles fell close to Ofakim on Monday night, shattering the residents’ confidence that their city would escape repercussions from the Gaza war. The first missile fell close to 11:15 p.m., after the third seder, and caused the bochurim to run into the nearest shelters. The next morning, another missile fell.
Despite the initial fears, the yeshiva is staying in its place. Rav Yaakov Horowitz, the rosh yeshiva, has given sichos chizuk to the bochurim, and the bochurim say they have made kabalos to increase Torah study and do other mitzvos as a zchus for themselves.
Gerrer yeshivos in Ashdod and Kiryat Gat
The Gerrer rebbe said that it is essential that the public not panic and suffer trauma. Whoever is nervous or afraid, should move to a safer area, and whoever wants can remain. One who lives elsewhere but works in Ashdod, can safely go to work there without fear.
“Concerning the yeshivos,” he said, “Since at a time like the present it’s essential to maintain Torah study in yeshivos and kolels with total concentration, and this is the greatest protection the Jewish nation can have, the yeshiva in Ashdod has to relocate to a place where the bochurim can learn without disturbance.”
The two yeshivos ketanos and one yeshiva gedola in Ashdod moved to Arad and Beit Shemesh and joined the Gerrer yeshivos operating there.
Concerning the Gerrer yeshivas in Kiryat Gat, the rebbe said that missiles will not reach the city and there is no reason for alarm.
Torah study is continuing unhampered despite the war conditions presiding over the south.
Chabad in Kiryat Gat
Chabad says they are staying put in Kiryat Gat, which they feel is not under serious threat from Gaza. The yeshiva says in any event, all of its building shelters are in order and ready to use.
Chedorim and Girls’ Schools
Chedorim and girls’ schools from Beersheva to the west and south have closed down. Tens of thousands of families have fled from missile range and taken up residence with relatives or kind-hearted strangers, where they are fully occupied with keeping their children occupied, and maintaining the flow of food, laundry and other essential family needs in unfamiliar conditions far away from home.