Hagoen Rav Shetinman Shlita and the Gerrer Rebbe Shlita have once again traveled out of Eretz Yisroel together – this time to bring Chizuk to Yidden living in Europe. YW will try and keep the readership updated on this historic trip. They departed Eretz Yisroel this morning to France aboard a private jet. A large Kabolas Ponim took place this evening in Marseilles at 5:00PM.
On Monday they will I”H travel to the city of Lyon, where a Kabolas Ponim is scheduled as well. On Tuesday they will travel to Paris where there will be Kabolas Ponim and a Kinus in their honor.
They are then scheduled to travel to England later in the week. YW will keep you updated on the details as soon as we receive finalized details (for England).
There have already been 20 beautiful pictures added into the YW photo album. They can be viewed by clicking HERE.
[Pictures will be added as they become available to us – thanks to ALL those who are submitting info and pictures.]
The following is the Haaretz article which appeared on their website on Sunday evening:
MARSEILLE, France – Flashbulbs and rhythmic singing accompanied the two rabbis who walked into the special hall prepared for them in the Marseille airport. Some 200 people, almost exclusively ultra-Orthodox residents of Marseille, waited in the hall for an hour on Sunday to welcome the rabbis, while children in the local ultra-Orthodox school stood outside under the blazing sun, holding flags that read “Welcome in the name of God.”
The scene looked almost as it would in Jerusalem or Bnei Brak as the crowd welcomed two of the most prominent rabbis living in Israel today: Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman and the Gerrer rebbe. But it was not quite like home: The Gerrer rebbe looked surprised when yeshiva students kissed his hands and beard, as is the custom among Sephardi Jews.
The rabbis’ trip – which will continue on to Lyon and Paris, and then to Manchester and Gateshead in Britain – is not aimed at soliciting donations, but at strengthening these Jewish communities spiritually, said a Steinman follower.
“This is the first time that an elderly rabbi, 93 years old, has gotten on a plane and said, ‘I didn’t come to ask anything of you, I came so that we can shout Shema Yisrael [“Hear O Israel”] together, I came to strengthen Torah and mitzvot [commandments] in your communities here in the Diaspora,” the Steinman follower said. “He came here to tell people that if there is Torah, there is no assimilation. The idea is to put Torah in the center, to commit to it. He came to tell them, ‘Leave everything and start to be ultra-Orthodox, like in Israel. It’s a matter of to be or not to be.'”
The Jewish community of Marseille, which numbers between 60,000 and 70,000, had been waiting a week for the “historic event,” as colorful posters described the rabbis’ arrival. The local Jewish radio station repeatedly called on the community to see “the two sages of Israel of our generation.”
“This is an event that we won’t forget for the rest of our lives,” said one of the ultra-Orthodox men who had come to welcome the rabbis.
The rabbinic duo represents Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox unity, as Steinman is one of the leading Lithuanian (non-Hasidic) rabbis and the Gerrer rebbe is the top Hasidic rabbi living in Israel. Some 18 months ago, the pair traveled to North America and Central America, and about a year before that, Steinman visited France on his own. Members of the ultra-Orthodox community in Paris say that visit changed their lives, since it led to the establishment of ultra-Orthodox schools that teach only religious studies.
In Israel, the rabbis appear almost exclusively before the ultra-Orthodox, but on their trips abroad, they appear at mass gatherings of people who barely know who they are or what the difference is between a Lithuanian and a Hasid.
Although it was mostly ultra-Orthodox Jews who welcomed the rabbis at the Marseille airport, they appeared at a keynote event Sunday night that targeted the mainstream Marseille Jewish community, most of whom consider themselves traditional Jews; some are not Sabbath observant. Unlike the rabbis’ previous trips, their audience this time ¬ in France, at least ¬ is unique in that, for the most part, it is neither ultra-Orthodox nor Ashkenazi.
“Here, we honor all sages of Israel, and it doesn’t matter if they’re Ashkenazi or Sephardi,” said Marseille Jewish community leader Zvi Ammar. “True, the vast majority of Marseille Jews are followers of [Sephardi spiritual leader] Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, but in our eyes, honor is due to all sages of Israel.”
Thousands of Jews from Marseille participated in the event, which took place in a wedding hall on the beach. Men and women, in separate sections, excitedly welcomed the rabbinic duo, who arrived in a convoy escorted by police motorcycles. Steinman gave a speech in Hebrew calling on the crowd to become more religious.
“The Holy One, Blessed Be He, wants people to overpower evil by doing mitzvot, learning Torah, putting on tefillin [phylacteries], observing the Sabbath,” he said. “That’s the goal – to overpower evil.” The Gerrer rebbe made do with a blessing in Yiddish and called on the crowd “to educate the children to Torah and fearing God, modesty and good character.”