Diaspora Jews now have their own religious pre-military academy

For the first time, female and male cadets will study together.

CADETS POSE on the first day of studies at Mechina Olamit in Migdal Oz on Sunday. (photo credit: WORLD BNEI AKIVA)
CADETS POSE on the first day of studies at Mechina Olamit in Migdal Oz on Sunday.
(photo credit: WORLD BNEI AKIVA)
A religious pre-military academy in the religious kibbutz of Migdal Oz opened its door to 50 cadets, half of them from Australia and South Africa.
Mechina Olamit, which opened on Sunday, is also the first religious pre-military academy to have male and female cadets from both Israel and abroad.
Cadets from the Bnei Akiva religious-Zionist youth movement will study Torah and subjects related to the Jewish people for six months in the academy, which is the result of cooperation between the World Bnei Akiva movement and the Jewish Agency.
Rabbi Arik Speaker, director of the institution said the academy will connect its disciples for advanced Torah studies, a knowledge of the land and the people, and it will prepare them for substantive service in the IDF or in communities around the world.
According to Bnei Akiva, while many cadets are unsure if they will join the IDF, at least seven of the 25 foreign cadets plan to immigrate and join the army. Others plan to return to their communities in the Diaspora.
Israel has 55 pre-army programs. The academies target citizens who finished high school, as well as new immigrants and Jews from abroad who have not yet become citizens.
Students defer the draft until after the one-year program ends.
While non-Israelis are not obligated to enlist, the pre-army programs generally encourage participants to join combat or elite combat units. In mid-August a graduate of the Eli academy, Col. Avi Blot, took command of the Oz Brigade.
Earlier this year controversy surrounded the Eli academy when its dean, Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, told several hundred graduates that female soldiers lose their Jewish “values and priorities,” and that to have female commanders was “madness.”
Levinstein subsequently acknowledged that his remarks were “inappropriate” but never retracted his statement.
The IDF has several mixed-gender border defense battalions, and in recent years has increased the recruitment of women to combat units. According to a senior officer in the personnel directorate, a record 2,500 women are expected to serve in combat roles this year.
In December, dozens of female members of Bnei Akiva wrote to the organization’s director, Elchanan Glatt, in protest of comments he made to the Arutz Sheva news site against religious girls enlisting in the IDF.
Glatt stated that the organization’s stance is that the enlistment of religious women “should not be encouraged,” stressing Bnei Akiva’s opposition of religious women serving in combat units.
“This is exactly what should not be done, and we are making great efforts to explain to the girls that this is not the proper or successful way to contribute to the State of Israel,” he said.