Over 3,000 high school graduates to begin pre-army programs

The academies help post-high school students prepare to be leaders in the IDF include 24 general and 22 Orthodox tracks.

mechina participants volunteer with IDF 370 (photo credit: Courtesy Hanan Leberman)
mechina participants volunteer with IDF 370
(photo credit: Courtesy Hanan Leberman)
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).
The 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.
Mechinat Hararei 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 draft.
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 our country.”
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.”