Representing an increase of 18 percent since last year, 3,300 high school
graduates will delay mandatory military service for a year and, in the next few
days, begin studies at 46 pre-army leadership academies (mechinot).
academies – operated by the Joint Council of Mechinot, or Israeli Zionist
Leadership Academies, and supported by UJA Federation of New York – include 24
general tracks and 22 Orthodox ones.
Out of the 46 programs, which aim at
“preparing youth for full and meaningful army service in combat units, tracks
for service as officers and commanders in full coordination with the needs of
the IDF,” four will open for the first time this year.
Zion, for example, will be exclusively dedicated to graduates of haredi
(ultra-orthodox) yeshivot. The academy, located at a former army base in the
Jordan Valley, will prepare 15-, 17- and 18-year-old males for their upcoming
Among this year’s participants, some come from abroad, primarily
North America, through the MASA Israel Journey program, a joint project of the
Jewish Agency and the government.
At the majority of the academies, the
year will open with a days-long trek from a central location to the school,
which generally “helps bring the group together and provides a basis for
understanding of the intense demands of the program.”
The main subjects
of focus include Judaism, Zionism, Democracy and Social Issues. The courses –
operated in coordination with the Ministries of Education and Defense – include
volunteering in the surrounding community.
“The pre-army mechinot
represent a strategic asset for the future of Israeli society,” Yos Eldar, the
Council of Mechinot’s director-general, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
“Our primary mission is to prepare young adults to take on meaningful leadership
roles in the IDF, and equally important, to become active leaders in Israel’s
civil society after the army.”
According to Eldar, in the past few years,
the program’s participants have constituted 25% of graduates of officers’
courses and 10% of pilot-course graduates.
“We are a unique organization
in which Orthodox work together with secular, and all streams of Judaism are
engaged in the common goal of making our country better,” he said. “We are
excited by the establishment of a haredi pre-army mechina, which will have a
powerful impact on the haredi community and their sharing of the right to serve
Eldar added that the Council aims at establishing a
national program for alumni of pre-army academies in the coming years in order
to “help channel their enthusiasm and moral leadership abilities into impacting
Israel’s civil society.”
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