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Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Many-Faceted Aish World Center©

Through Aish HaTorah, Torah learning resounds throughout the world, whether it’s their popular website Aish.com, their kiruv programs, or Aish Rabbis and centers the world over. The Aish HaTorah World Center is strategically located not more than 100 meters from the Har HaBayis, the heart and center of the world.

Its position at the back-edge of the Kottel plaza gives it 45% of the frontage facing the Kotel,  Here you see midah neged midah in action: Aish brought people close to HaShem, so HaShem awarded it a place which is closest to the holiest spot in the world.

You can visit the eight floors of this bastion of Torah and kiruv by entering though a double entrance glass doorway in the Rovah. Featured in the spacious entrance hall is a magnificent work of art sculpted by Dale Chihuly in glass though which the sun plays.

The blue and navy glass droplets at the bottom of the sculpture symbolize the drops of water that Rabbi Akiva observed making an indentation in the rock where they fell. From this sight he learned that if water, which is a soft medium, can alter hard rock, then the fire of Torah, represented by the blazing red, orange, and yellow strips in the Chihuly sculpture, can change a man's heart which is soft. 

This is the message embodied in the name “Aish HaTorah.” Just as Rabbi Akiva, a man of forty, started learning Torah and eventually became the pillar of the Torah's Oral Law, so too can any Jew or Jewess, no matter what their age, transform themselves and become great in Torah and the doing of HaShem’s Will. 
On the flooring under the glass artwork is a splendid mosaic in shades of green and orange. The arches and pillars on this floor and the one above are replicas of the crusader archways that did not hold up in a rainstorm when the building was renovated. 
On the left wall of the vestibule is a huge dedication board. The generous donors' names seem to be placed within a large field. This is meant to show how the giving of tzedaka is like planting a seed from which great dividends will be reaped.

In the right-hand corner of the lobby near two large windows that overlook the Kosel Plaza is the hi t-tech interactive Tribute Wall for Rav Noach Weinberg, zatzal, the founder of Aish HaTorah. You can stand at a deck a few meters away from the wall and choose to view any one of the many talks the Rav gave, either in video or in script. You can also email the text to a friend. There are even cartooned videos for children giving over powerful messages that can have a lasting positive influence. 

Off to the sides of the lobby are classrooms. Everyday, any day, you can drop into classes given by some of the world's most dynamic speakers. These start at 9 am and are scheduled until 6 pm on the hour, with a lunch break from 1pm until 2pm. On Fridays there is a Chumash class at 9.30 am. 

The Discovery Seminar classes are given every Sunday from 9:45 am until 4pm. It’s worthwhile to join a Discovery course in order to understand how to answer questions about Yiddishkeit that may come your way from non-observant relatives or acquaintances. There is a nominal entrance fee for these classes.

The E.L.C. (Executive Learning Center) is located on the floor above the reception area. Here small or one-to-one sessions are held. If you have not-yet-frum parents or relatives, it’s advisable to urge them to participate in the program.  The cost of the class is well worth the fantastic results. Rav Gavriel Kleinerman should be contacted for registration. His phone number is 052-869-9026 or email him at gkleinerman@aish.com.

Above the E.L.C. Floor is the flat roof with an outstanding panoramic view of the Temple Mount and the surrounding area. Binoculars are available for a bird's eye view of the Temple Mount in greater detail. A precise model of Herod's Beis HaMikdash is also found here. One sixtieth the size of the original Temple, the model is facing 180 degrees in the wrong direction to enable an easy viewing of all its facets. Plus, it features an hydraulic lift to raise the different sections of the replica in order to study them better. Presently, they are installing a one-of-a-kind in Israel glass elevator which does not block the view.

Going down one floor beneath the lobby, you find classrooms that are packed in the summer months with “Fellowship” students. Beneath that is a floor with a beautiful large hall and a glass wall facing the Kotel Plaza.  This is suited for large receptions and can be rented from Aish for weddings and bar mitzvahs. There is another smaller hall lower down that can also be rented out.

The next level down has a small auditorium for video presentations that seats about 60 people. And the last floor has the Hochstein Gate which lets you out into the Kosel Plaza. They are planning to open a center here to attract and mekarev Jews who are visiting the Kosel.

On this level, you can also find remnants of  aqueducts from the Second Temple Period. The original building had three different sections with some parts dating back hundreds of years, and other parts even thousands of years, including. Crusader arches and structures from the Ottoman Period.

In the mid-nineteenth century, a Reverend Barclay established a mission here to convert the Jews to Christianity. He did not meet with success in his endeavors and the building passed into Jewish hands. It became a center for prayer from 1881 until1948, as well as being known as a place for viewing the Kosel.

Paradoxically, the fact that the Haganah felt it could not defend the building and abandoned it at the beginning of the 1948 War kept the building intact when the Arab Legion took it over. In the early 1980s, Aish rented the premises for dorms, and by the year 2000, the historic building was Aish's property. 

The Aish World Center is open every day for viewing from 9 am until 7pm, except on Fridays and Shabbos. The entrance fee is NIS 10 per person over five years old. 

Published in the 'English Update' 13 January 1011

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