|By Michal Sharon|
A harp hung over King David’s bed. At midnight, a northern wind would blow on it and it would play music by itself. King David and his students would then arise and study Torah….delving its depths until the dawn. Therefore King David would say: “Awake, my glory, awake, harp and lyre, I will awake the dawn.” (Ps. 57:9)
(Midrash Rabah, Bamidbar, 15:16)
From its lofty dwelling, the High-school-Yeshiva Kinor David (“David’s Harp”) looks out over a beautiful view of the rolling hills of Samaria and beyond – all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. Visitors to the Yeshiva feel the open skies and ancient hills enhance the atmosphere of this unique establishment. Located high on the hill in the village Ateret, music can be heard floating down throughout the day from the Yeshiva to the homes below. The campus consists of a collection of caravans, which house the classrooms, music rooms and administration; and an assortment of houses where the students dorm. Under these restricted conditions, an amazing institution has blossomed: Kinor David, the only high-school Yeshiva in the world which incorporated high-level musical education with Torah studies. Moreover, Kinor David has recently been recognized by the Ministry of Education as a successful experimental school due to the educational research conducted by the Yeshiva's staff which aspires to encourage personal growth through the influence of music. But what must be the most indicative of its success is the high level of satisfaction with the school expressed by both students and their parents.
This list of achievements is impressive on its own, but even more so in the context of the time and place in which they were accomplished. The Yeshiva was founded in 1988, a year after the beginning of the infamous Arab riots, in a location which has endured much hardship. Over the years cars traveling on the roads to the village and the surrounding Jewish communities have been attacked by Arab terrorists, who haven’t hesitated to attack the villages themselves. In addition, yeshivot in Israel have suffered severe budget cuts by the government; and Kinor David, which also relies on donations from abroad, has been hard hit by the latest economic crisis. The success of the school is due to the great dedication, sacrifice and hard work of its staff.
Kinor David is the brainchild of the residents of Ateret, who felt the unique atmosphere of their village had much to offer. They also hoped that the rather isolated community would benefit from having a Yeshiva in their midst. Kinor David was established for orthodox boys looking to develop their musical talents within a Yeshiva environment, while acquiring a full high-school diploma. The founders hoped to create a new generation of musicians proficient in both Torah and music that would breath new life into Jewish music and Jewish society.
Kinor David is now famous for its unique educational approach which combines musical sensitivities, an especially devoted staff, and friendly respect between students and teachers. It places an emphasis on its warm, family-like atmosphere, and attends to the individual needs of each student. This approach, along with the musical leitmotif that permeates every aspect, balances the Yeshiva’s rigorous and demanding curriculum with a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere.
Rabbi Moti Hershkop has been the Rosh Yeshiva (Yeshiva Headmaster) for the past 5 years and is highly esteemed. An accomplished musician in his own right, he arrived with a clear vision and a unique sensitivity and understanding of the younger generation's mindset. Together with Mr. Uri Heilborn, the high-school principal, he has set the Yeshiva on a path towards excellence.
Rabbi Moti Hershkop reaches the young people's hearts through his philosophy of freedom within boundaries, and discipline coupled with trust. He maintains that in order to reach the teenagers, the educator must learn the young people's "language" and how to maneuver in the ‘dance’ between the young people and their educators, while simultaneously leading them towards the Yeshiva's vision. Each educator must learn what motivates and excites the youth; understand his world and his way of thinking.
Kinor David seeks out the students who show an interest in self-development as individuals, as religious Jews and as musicians. Students with no prior musical training are also welcome, as long as they show musical aptitude and promise, based on a series of professional tests. Those students are encouraged to learn how to play an instrument, and often the student are encouraged to try out additional instruments to those they already play.
Music is, in many ways, like spoken language with syntax, grammar and rules. However, music has the ability to convey ideas and emotions that words are too limited to express. In the four years of their studies, the student at Kinor David learns the language of music and simultaneously receives an education that is geared to an individual seeking spiritual meaning. The vision of Kinor David is to integrate musical education and religious and spiritual learning, forming a committed Jew and musician, who expresses his Jewish identity through his music. Through this musical expression of his own spiritual world – he will also elevate his surroundings. One of the Yeshiva’s goals is to use music to encourage communication between the different currents in Israeli society.
To that end, the curriculum includes high-level Torah studies with a special emphasis on faith and spirituality; a full high-school curriculum leading towards a matriculation diploma and the study of music on an academic level, granting students credits for continued studies in Bar Ilan University. Each student receives a weekly private lesson on his chosen instrument, in addition to regular classes in music appreciation, music theory, history of music, ear training and solfeg, and participation in one (or more) of the Yeshiva’s musical ensembles (ranging through classical, jazz, rock, and ethnic styles). Students who show great musical potential can have a study program tailored for their needs.
The student housing facilities are a rare opportunity for social and cultural enrichment. Extra-curricular activities also include regular school trips to live concerts, master classes, and specially arranged meetings with accomplished musicians. The 12th grade students also participate in a volunteer program, which includes giving music lesson to underprivileged children.
Kinor David is not focusing all its efforts on the high-school alone and is reaching out to the general public. The Institute for Research of Music in Judaism, which is part of the Yeshiva, holds annual conferences where leading, world-famous music scholars as well as important Halachic (Jewish Law) authorities discussing the interactions between Torah, music and spirituality. Graduates of the Yeshiva participate by playing original music during the conference.
A source of great pride to the Yeshiva is its success in the Department of Experiments and Initiatives in the Ministry of Education. Kinor David's vision roused interest of this elite department, and it was chosen to be one of the 100 schools to participate in a five-year research program. Kinor David was pronounced a success and was chosen, together with 4 other schools, to become a distribution center to educational institutions and to the community at large.
Still, most of the energies remain focused on the Yeshiva. Rabbi Hershkop describes the teenagers as going through a process – difficult and beautiful; magical and complex. Facing the duality of Jewish tradition and the modern world of the 21st century can be very confusing. In Kinor David they try to create a synthesis between these worlds. Both music and Jewish thought have evolved and developed into many different forms of expression throughout the generations. The boys learn how to use the language of music and of Judaism to express the thoughts, feelings and emotions evoked by both.