HaRav Moshe Zvi Neria was a rabbi, an educator and a spiritual leader. He was the founder of the chain of Bnei Akiva Yeshivas. He is called the “father of the knitted kipa generation” because of his influence on the shaping of the character of the religious-Zionist culture which believes in combining Torah, work and nation.
In 1930, when he was 17, he learned that the Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Hacohen Kook, the chief rabbi of the Land of Israel was working to save yeshiva students in Russia and trying to obtain certificates to enable them to enter the Land of Israel. He wrote a letter, rich in Torah quotes, to the Rabbi’s son, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda. Shortly thereafter, he received an entry visa and a ticket to the Land of Israel. In 1930, he arrived in the Land of Israel and immediately went to Jerusalem. When he met the rabbi and his son for the first time, there was an immediate connection and he turned to public work in the spirit of Rabbi Kook. Through Rabbi Kook, he became acquainted with the Bnei Akiva Youth Movement, which was still in its infancy.
In 1940, despite opposition within the movement, Rabbi Neria and 13 young people founded the first Bnei Akiva yeshiva in Kfar Haroe, a religious settlement. This was the first high school yeshiva. The yeshiva was groundbreaking in that it combined farming with holy studies. With the passing of time, as a result of the demands of parents, high school studies were added (instead of physical work) despite Rabbi Neria’s objections.
In 1978, Rabbi Neria won the Israel Prize for his special contribution to the advancement and development of the society and the state. The rabbi died in 1995 at the age of 82, leaving behind him a generation of students who spread his ideology and educational philosophy in tens of schools all over Israel. His last words, more than anything else, expressed his great love for Israel and its holiness; “I am cold, warm me up with Torah. Holiness I request. The holy of holies I request. Give me the holiness of Eretz Israel, give me the holiness of loving Am Israel”