Source: Jerusalem Post
Israeli pre-military academies, which require army approval because the participants defer their military service by 12-to- 18 months, lovingly nurture future recruits’ minds, hearts, and souls. They are quintessentially Israeli: as undisciplined, untidy, and unmilitary as your favorite shwarma stand but as grounding, moving, and stimulating as “Hatikva.” The first mechina, B’nai David, began in 1987, as an alternative to hesder yeshivas, which rotate learning and serving. Hoping to encourage more religious officers, the mechina prepped for what the IDF calls “a full and meaningful army service.” The growth spurt came in 1995, following Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination. Educators added secular and mixed academies to encourage values-oriented learning in Israel, about Judaism, Zionism, Israel, and life.
It worked. From 700 high school graduates attending six mechinot in 1997, today 3,300 students attend 43 academies, with seven more being developed. Some, like Keshet Yehuda, offer parallel programs for Diaspora Jews. The defense and education ministries split most costs, while parents also pay tuition. Many graduates join elite units, and – reflecting motivation and skill – are twice as likely to become officers.
Today, 19 mechinot are religious, and 24 general, including some mixing religious and secular. Some are all-male, some are mixed. Some emphasize Torah learning, some emphasize general philosophy, some emphasize volunteering.
All offer patriotic, Jewish and Zionist educational experiences, including hikes and physical workouts to prepare them for their army service.
Obviously, not every mechina student has a great experience. Still, looking at these kids, feeling their idealism, their energy, I thought: “This is our future! This is Israeli Zionism! This is that mix of vision and pragmatism that founded the state and will redeem it.” What a beautiful gift the state of Israel is giving these young people by supporting these programs.
Read more at the Jerusalem Post.