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Sunday, September 22, 2019

(Courtesy of HaShomer HaChadash) Glenn and Debby Pfeiffer and family, of Bergenfield, were looking for a change of pace when it came time for the bar mitzvah trip of their youngest son, Yehuda—something off the beaten path, an experience that would include the extended Pfeiffer family. They wanted to be inspired, to connect to the land of Israel, to experience Zionist history and biblical history all at the same time.

Yehuda Pfeiffer was fortunate to have grandparents who whisked their whole family away, to spend a memorable Pesach together in Har Canaan, on a hilltop hotel just above Tzfat. There were a total of 35 Pfeiffers spanning four generations from ages three months to 74 years and each of them had a blast. Their itinerary was jam-packed. One of the highlights was their day spent in the Galilee with Hashomer HaChadash, helping Jewish farmers work the land.

The day started by getting straight to work in the apricot fields. “We helped the farmers by pruning the apricot trees, which taught me about the hard work that the farmers do for the land of Israel,” Yehuda said. “But my favorite part of the afternoon was herding the sheep like the shepherds do.”

It’s certainly hard to imagine a more biblically based activity than sheep herding.

The Pfeiffer clan also hiked to an archaeological tell from biblical days and heard about border-preserving agriculture. The day closed with farmer games, in which the Pfeiffers ended up impressing the locals with their teamwork and skills.

HaShomer HaChadash (or “The New Israeli Guardians”), the group that organized the day for the Pfeiffers, is one of the largest volunteer organizations in Israel. The name is inspired by a Zionist safeguarding group that sprang up in 1909 to protect Jewish farmers in the Galilee. That group was simply called HaShomer.

HaShomer HaChadash started for much the same reason – protecting farmers and ranchers from theft and vandalism, a growing problem in Israel’s north. The organization has enjoyed great success since its founding in 2007. In 2018, it boasted 70,000 volunteers. The group has expanded its mandate beyond safeguarding. It now seeks to connect Jews, particularly Diaspora Jews, to the land of Israel. It believes that the best way to do so is through working the land.

“We enjoyed learning about HaShomer HaChadash. We have such profound respect for the Israeli farmers who contribute to the Israeli economy while also defending the land on its most hostile borders. We’re glad we could help them a little bit,” Yehuda’s Aunt Miriam said.

Yoel Zilberman, founder and CEO of HaShomer HaChadash said: “There is an extraordinary opportunity for the Jewish people to come together in a shared mission of mutual responsibility that will unite Jewish communities around the world. We want to help other families connect to Israel the way the Pfeiffers did, to feel the dirt under their feet, and through their fingers. We believe there’s a spiritual link between Israel and its people. Some special people, like Yehuda, only need to touch it once to be hooked,” Zilberman said.