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Dancing All The Way To Redemption
By M. ben Yair

An interview with Yoram Sharabi, the driver of the van that was recently shot at on Purim mivtzaim near Chevron * Yoram’s search for meaning in life * His becoming acquainted with Rabbi Viktor Atyah of the Chabad house in Chevron and the subsequent changes in his life

On Purim night, in the middle of a farbrengen at the central Chabad House in Be’er Sheva, a family member called and said that a van of Lubavitchers had been shot at in the Chevron area. “I am positive it was Lubavitchers. They interviewed the driver and among other things, he said “HaRebbe Melech HaMoshiach” and “Yechi.

That’s when we met Yoram Sharabi. His quick-witted and level-headed response helped save the life of a severely wounded boy. He raced over to the nearby I.D.F. station to obtain emergency medical help for the boy, who was then whisked away to the hospital by helicopter. No doubt Yoram had experienced similar incidents. In the course of his work as driver for schoolchildren from Chevron to Kiryat Arba, he had encountered stone throwing, Molotov cocktails, and roadblocks. Perhaps it was his experience, or his particular nature, or both, that helped him keep his wits about him and do what he had to do.

* * *

Yoram was born in Petach Tikva-Shaaraya, where he lost three brothers and his mother. Two brothers were kidnapped and are still missing, the third brother died, and shortly after that, his mother also passed away.

With his mother’s death, his home was in a shambles. His father, who had suffered so terribly, became depressed and mourned the loss of his loved ones. Yoram and his other brothers were sent to schools with dormitories, in the hope that they would be rehabilitated in that environment.

When he came home to visit, he spent most of his time at weddings, where he threw off his burden of pain and sorrow by dancing. “I sought joy,” he says. “I was a bubbly and happy child with a perpetual smile on my face. Everybody loved pinching my cheeks or kissing my forehead.”

He remembers his mother as a tremendous baalas chesed. Over the years, she hosted hundreds of elderly refugees and made sure they had food and clothing. She even bathed the elderly women herself. “She sought out every hungry Jew and brought them to her home,” says Yoram, “despite her difficult circumstances and the poor financial situation.”

When Yoram came of age, he was drafted into the Israeli army, where he suffered a spiritual descent. “I abandoned Torah and religion. It didn’t interest me. I wanted to enjoy myself, to be free.”

He began his army service in the parachutists division. In the middle of 5733, he transferred to the tank division and served in the Yom Kippur War. “I didn’t like the army,” he says. “It was hard for me to see good friends falling. My heart always sought joy. The army just wasn’t the place for me.”

After his tour of duty ended, he worked as a counselor at Noar ha’Oveid v’ha’Lomeid. On one of his many projects, when he founded a children’s club at Kibbutz Mishmar HaYarden, he met his wife-to-be, Tzivia. She lived on the kibbutz and worked as the district secretary. They married at the kibbutz.

When Yoram speaks about life on the kibbutz, he brightens up. During this period in his life he worked on perfecting his dancing techniques, as well as his drawing and handicrafts. He also studied bio-energy, an alternative form of healing, with an expert in the field.

“At first we formed a terrific group of dancers. We would dance through the night. Whenever I had the opportunity, I would disappear for hours to dance. I learned the art of Yemenite dance, and when I performed, everyone could sense that it came from my inner being, and they felt the joy I projected. That’s the feedback I got. A friend and I put together a small dance troupe, composed primarily of children. We did a series of performances at weddings for free, the main thing being to make Jews rejoice. That was my sole desire.”

He could have continued along this path for years to come if a window hadn’t opened for him to the world outside the kibbutz. He was asked to work as a truck driver to deliver agricultural products from the kibbutzim of Emek Chefer. The many hours he spent in the lap of nature, as well as getting to know various people, thrilled him. “The fantastic expanses, the green fields – enflamed my passions.”

He spent many hours in solitude and felt his soul pining for the truth. He met many elderly people whose emunas chachomim (trust in the rabbanim) and love for others were constantly apparent on their faces. He learned about their lives and yearned to be like them.

At the same time, he met a kibbutz member who was proficient in music, art, pottery, and metal-works. They spent many nights together by the light of the fire. He could play the violin, drums, flute, and sitar, and they spent entire nights together until sunrise. “The interesting thing,” says Yoram, “is that this friend, who was a great believer, taught me about emuna even though he had never studied Torah and kept no mitzvos.

“Together we traveled to the deep wadis of Tzfat, climbed the mountains barefoot, and spoke endlessly. He taught me true ahavas Hashem, how to be inspired in the morning by the beauty of creation and the return of one’s soul. When he got up in the morning he would be inspired, and words expressing amazement would burst forth from his lips. He saw the beauty in nature and thanked G-d for it.

“Nevertheless, I realized we were missing something; I was searching for something. When I discussed teshuva with my wife, she didn’t want to hear of it. But I didn’t give up.”

One day, Yoram went to shul in a nearby village, where he saw a sight he had never seen before. Two bearded young Chassidim were dancing up a storm. “I enjoyed it as I had never enjoyed anything else,” he reminisces. “They pulled me into the circle and told me that they were Lubavitchers who had come to print a Tanya in the village, as the Rebbe had instructed them.

“To tell you the truth, I didn’t understand what they were saying, but one thing I understood: All the talk at the kibbutz about religious people was brainwashing. At the kibbutz they instilled a hatred for the religious, r’l, and they painted them as fanatics and ‘black.’ Here I was meeting two charming, happy young men.

“They invited me into their large vehicle parked nearby and explained that it was called a Mivtza Tank. They related teachings from the weekly sidra, which I found very interesting, though I didn’t understand most of it.”

The two young Lubavitchers accepted Yoram’s invitation to spend Shabbos at kibbutz Mishmar HaSharon. “For the first time I saw the Rebbe’s unlimited powers. I didn’t believe they would come, but they did – and how! They brought some food with them and we spoke together for a long time. I asked them to help me improve my difficult situation at home and within myself. I wanted to make my home kosher and they promised to help.

“Late one night, apparently after visiting other homes, they came and kashered my house. I watched them at work and marveled at their refinement and their willingness to help. After I had tried so hard to get the help and guidance I needed, these two tzaddikim arrived and did everything with joy.

“They told me about the Rebbe and how every query is answered. On the spot, I decided to write to the Rebbe. I wrote something like this: ‘Rebbe, I want to leave the kibbutz and return in genuine teshuva, but how can I do so when my wife opposes the idea and my children refuse to leave the kibbutz? I am happy that you have soldiers like these. If only I could be one of them. With great respect, Yoram Sharabi, Kibbutz Mishmar HaSharon.’

“I gave them the letter and asked when I would receive a response. To my amazement, they explained that even if the Rebbe would not send a written letter, just by virtue of sending the letter to the Rebbe, and the fact that the Rebbe would read it – things would be accomplished. I believed them and accepted what they said.”

Throughout that time, Yoram continued living at the kibbutz, taking his first steps towards observance, such as putting on tefillin every morning. This refined his attitude to the point that he withdrew from an art school in Tel Aviv because he did not want to draw forbidden things. He decided to study with a private teacher, though after some time, he felt it was too difficult for him. He searched for something happier...

Yoram recalls the wedding of his cousin, who had become a baal teshuva. After much indecision about whether to attend this religious wedding in Yerushalayim (for I remembered the rock-throwing at cars on Shabbos), I decided to go. It was my wife’s idea, in order not to disrupt family unity.

“At the wedding I began dancing as I usually did. But some rabbi grabbed my arm (later I discovered he was a former karate champ) and said, “We don’t do mixed dancing here.” He dragged me gently into the men’s circle of dancers, but I – stunned by his nerve – refused. Only after he apologized, did I agree to follow him.

“The crowd danced before the chatan and some people did interesting tricks. I had never seen anything like it before. I decided to get into the center of the circle and show off my dancing ability. I danced for quite a while and many people shook my hand in congratulations. The rabbi with the iron hand said I should become a baal teshuva.

“I returned home exhausted. The next day I thought it over, and when it came time for the kibbutz dancing, I began feeling uncomfortable about it and had no desire for it. Something inexplicable had happened to me.”

“I had a book of Baal Shem Tov stories that I read every day. I identified strongly with the Baal Shem Tov and his holy disciples. Their incredible ahavas Yisroel inspired me.

“I dearly wanted to be one of the Baal Shem Tov’s students. The holy words and the wondrous dancing of the Chassidim drew me. I began to take small steps towards observance.

“I wanted to volunteer my services, so I drove an ambulance for Magen Dovid Adom for a while. At a later point I became a gardener on the farm, where I became more acquainted with the earth and its hidden powers.”

Some time passed. The kibbutz accepted Yoram’s request to study at a yeshiva in Yerushalayim instead of art. His wife agreed and they traveled to Yerushalayim together.

“I’ll be honest with you. I was overwrought. Since I had no idea where in Yerushalayim I was going, I asked the taxi driver whether he knew of a yeshiva for baalei teshuva. He smiled and said there were many such yeshivos in Yerushalayim, but he recommended Machon Meir, which is run by Rabbi Dov Begun.

“He took us to the yeshiva and refused to accept payment, though I insisted on paying him. Suddenly my wife jumped up. ‘Hey, Rabbi Begun once served as Rabbi of Mishmar HaSharon. I know who he is!’ she blurted out.

“We entered the offices of the yeshiva and were greeted warmly. I felt my inner world in a turmoil. I recalled the letter I had written to the Lubavitcher Rebbe and saw how events were beginning to move.

“At first, Rabbi Begun tested out my sincerity. He told me that he would not accept me into the yeshiva. ‘Why do you want to learn in a yeshiva? Go back to the kibbutz!’ he said. I got up and politely demanded to be allowed to remain. Rabbi Begun smiled and said it had only been a test to see if I was truly interested in studying in the yeshiva, or if my desire was only momentary.

“I was accepted with open arms, and until now I hold the staff in high esteem. They opened the doors of halacha, ahavas Yisroe,l and emuna to me, all of which I had never known about. Ahavas Yisroel is the foundation of that wonderful yeshiva. Its motto was the Mishna that says “Be of the students of Aharon the Kohen, love peace and pursue peace, love [G-d’s] creatures and draw them close to Torah.”

Ten months later, Yoram moved to Yerushalayim to find work. He searched for a long time but came up with nothing. The situation distressed him because he hadn’t yet moved his family from the kibbutz to Yerushalayim.

He turned to his teacher, Rabbi Uriel Yair of Chevron, and asked for help. The rav replied that in Chevron they were looking for a driver to take children to school in Kiryat Arba. Was he interested?

“My first inclination,” says Yoram, “was to say absolutely not. I was terrified, because the roads there are dangerous. The rav didn’t want to pressure me. He only mentioned that he wanted to help and he thought I would be perfect for the job since I knew how to make people happy. His honesty made me change my mind and I said okay. Think about it – I was leaving the kibbutz for Chevron!

“Rabbi Reider interviewed me and gave me a quick tour of the Jewish settlement – the Shechunat Avrohom Avinu, Beit Hadassa, etc. Finally he showed me the vehicle I would be driving. It was a G.M.C. with no windows (apparently they were broken in some attack or another), and full of dents from rock throwing incidents.

“I was in shock. ‘Is this is it?’ I wondered.

“Rabbi Reider seemed to read my mind. He put a hand on my shoulder and said, ‘Don’t worry. Tomorrow you’ll go to Tel Aviv to have the vehicle armor-plated.’ That’s how I became a bus driver.

“The next day, I davened at the Meoras HaMachpela for the first time in my life. My davening was different than anything I had experienced up until then. Since that day, I daven vasikin at the Meora.”

Yoram began his job with no small measure of trepidation. He saw the worried mothers who left their homes to greet their loved ones. He saw the hatred in the eyes of the Arabs, but he intensified his faith in Hashem.

“Suddenly I had a brainstorm,” says Yoram. “Ribono Shel Olam, I said to myself, all that I learned and all the dancing and rejoicing I did was in preparation for the children and people living here!”

He began singing with the children, both in order to assuage his nervousness as well as to encourage the children and distract them from the sights out the window. Stones were thrown at the van every day, and he was often stopped by roadblocks of burning tires. When this happened, he would call the Jewish residents of the city, who would come to his aid.

“I was moved by the daily mesirus nefesh of the residents there and by their ahavas and achdus Yisroel. People living in the center of the country have no idea what is going on here. They don’t know of the sacrifices of these people, who physically protect the kivrei ha’Avos. It is because of them that hundreds of thousands of Jews can come and pour out their heart in prayer here.

“Once again I changed my mind from the way I used to think at the kibbutz. This time it was about the settlers. I began to admire and respect them. At the same time, I looked at the I.D.F. differently, for they were prevented from reacting to roadblocks, etc.

“With time I gained courage and I made the trip quite an experience for the little ones. I taught them Yemenite songs. I made them laugh, and entertained them with Mishnayos until our vehicle became a veritable Mivtza Tank, full of the sound of Torah and song.

“I explained to the children that if they sang loudly they wouldn’t throw the rocks or they would miss. And that’s just what happened!

The mothers’ worried faces became happy – all smiles – as they greeted their children each day. The songs we sang on the road became hits and were sung at people’s Shabbos tables.

“I also became the postman, and between jobs I was also a gardener. I cleared away rocks while saying Mishnayos b’al peh. At first it was very hard for me to take on all these jobs, but I had no choice. I worked with someone who became my good friend, Eli Galboa, a tall fellow who was very impressed by the new simcha that had come to Chevron. Eli turned out to be an accordion player, so I organized a children’s’ choir and together we composed songs especially for the precious children of Chevron, songs that were regularly sung by the children.”

* * *

Miracle stories are not lacking in Chevron. In the course of his work, Yoram has witnessed Divine providence saving the lives of children. Once, after he picked up the children from Beit Hadassa, they heard a loud boom. It was a grenade thrown from a house, aimed at the waiting children. Miraculously, no one was hurt, for Yoram had picked up the children a minute before. Three soldiers standing outside the station had gone inside just seconds earlier.

One day follows another, and one terrorist incident follows another. Tension in the street was high and the Arabs began throwing metal objects. Yoram became a quick and skilled driver as he raced through the streets of Chevron. As the situation worsened, a soldier accompanied them in the van on every trip. Yoram quickly saw he was useless. His hands were tied by military restrictions on opening fire, but Yoram was happy that the soldier got to learn the songs and words of Torah. The van continued to bustle with life as though the passengers were oblivious to the hundreds of rocks flying about outside. The scene was surreal.

At difficult times, Yoram received encouragement from Rabbi Moshe and Miriam Levinger, who are legendary for their mesirus nefesh for Chevron.

Yoram’s family moved to Ramat Mamrei (Givat HaCharsina) in Kiryat Arba. Yoram’s wife began working as the secretary at the Yeshiva Shovei Chevron at Beit Romano (where Toras Emes used to be) in Chevron.

“Who would have believed,” says Yoram respectfully, “that a woman from a kibbutz would agree to live in such a dangerous area, and to suffer along with me through the Arab attacks.”

* * *

In 5751, after the Rebbe’s announcement that “the time for your redemption has arrived,” Yoram became more interested in the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He was acquainted with the Rebbe only through the media and from periodicals with the Rebbe’s picture.

He asked Rabbi Viktor Atyah, the shaliach of Kiryat Arba-Chevron, questions about the Rebbe and his mission in the world. The explanations he heard gave him a deep respect for the Rebbe.

“The Rebbe’s picture infused me with the certainty that there was something unique about this spiritual giant that set him apart from anyone else. I read a little bit of the publications they sent us each week, and although I didn’t understand much, they made a deep impression on me.”

In 5753, when the Chassidim began singing “Yechi” before the Rebbe with the Rebbe’s encouragement, Yoram accepted it quite readily. His emuna was strong and he was happy to hear Rabbi Atyah’s explanations about the Rebbe being Moshiach.

Yoram wanted to visit the Rebbe in person, but his work with the children did not allow him to leave. Yoram never met the Rebbe face to face, but he says that the Rebbe appeared to him in dreams a number of times. These visions made an indelible impression on him and strengthened his faith in the Rebbe as Moshiach.

Two years passed. The burden on him was tremendous and he wanted to retire. He remained, however, for two more years, after meeting someone who asked him to think about how Hashem had retrieved him from the depths in order to cheer up the children of Chevron. This reduced his tension somewhat, and he continued to live in Chevron.

After four years in Chevron, Yoram wanted to go back to Machon Meir, but met with resistance from everybody in Chevron. He agreed to return after a period of time, and he went to the Yeshiva Nachalat Tzvi in Yerushalayim, a sister school of Machon Meir. While there, he organized fundraising evenings for the Jews in Chevron and collected money house to house for their benefit.

He conducted these visits with an Uzi in his hand and joyful songs on his lips. In each house he visited, he first related to the children, amusing them in his special way while informing them of the imminent Redemption. Only afterwards did he turn to the parents and discuss money – and of course, the coming of Moshiach. He collected many signatures on forms requesting “Moshiach Now.” After two years he had thousands of signatures.

Yoram made progress in Torah and Chassidus. He began to wear a sirtuk. Rabbi Nachshon and Rabbi Atyah sat with him for hours, explaining the concept of Chassid and the practical implications of being a Chassid, which Yoram accepted. For hours every night, Yoram went with Rabbi Nachshon and did mivtzaim, publicizing the besuras ha’Geula. Neither snow nor rocks deterred them, and they accomplished a great deal.

For five years, Yoram gave classes to women on inyanei Moshiach and Geula in Beis Moshiach in Yerushalayim. He also used various opportunities in radio interviews to publicize the news that “behold, Moshiach comes,” and that the Rebbe is Moshiach.

Today, Yoram helps with the tremendous work of the Chabad House of Kiryat Arba, run by Rabbi Atyah. His most recent project was the children’s matza baking. His motto is: Dancing All the Way to Redemption!


Yoram Sharabi and Rabbi Viktor Atyah
dancing with the soldiers in Chevron:
In the course of his work as driver for schoolchildren from Chevron to Kiryat Arba, Yoram had encountered stone throwing, Molotov cocktails, and roadblocks

Yoram as a soldier



“At first, Rabbi Begun tested out my sincerity. ‘Why do you want to learn in a yeshiva? Go back to the kibbutz!’ he said.”


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