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May 4, 2021

Set for Success: Federation’s Partner Agency Helps Israeli Youth Prepare for Army Service

JAFI

Despite the pandemic, Federation’s overseas partner The Jewish Agency for Israel has continued to operate its mechinot (pre-army) programs, preparing hundreds of young Israelis for successful service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and a rewarding career path thereafter. Developed 10 years ago in an effort to engage Israeli youth from the country’s socio-economic and geographic periphery, the mechinot programs have a common goal: create self-sufficient young adults who possess a sense of communal responsibility that will help them thrive mentally and emotionally. Atzede Ayala, a graduate of Mechinat Erez Or Yehuda who made aliyah from Ethiopia at only eight years old said, “I’m fulfilling my dreams thanks to the tools I gained at the mechinah,” said.

The 19 Jewish Agency mechinot offer a variety of opportunities for Jewish study, volunteering, skill-building and personal development. Several are aimed at certain groups and demographics, including ones for young women, ultra-Orthodox men who choose to enlist and for individuals interested in making cross-cultural connections like Jews and Christians or Jews and Arab-speaking Israelis.

Commander Michael Tunik, one of 6,000 mechinot graduates, recognizes the impact of the program. “The time you spend studying or camping enriches your knowledge of the world and your self-confidence both as a person, and later as a soldier. In the course of our lives, we’ll encounter many moments like these.”

Data from the IDF’s Human Resources illustrates that prior to enrolling in the mechinot, participants were not meeting the national standards required to even get drafted, and if they were, they were expected to hold much lower positions in the army. In a country where an individual’s army rank often sets the trajectory of his or her life for years to come, the success of one’s service cannot be overstated. Following their training, mechinot alumni surpass the national average army rank, holding countless combat and field roles, with many continuing on to become officers.

Amira Ahronoviz, CEO and Director General of The Jewish Agency for Israel, “When we talk about [mechinot participants] being change agents and about them moving the needle of the fabric of Israeli society, it focuses on the ability to have graduates return home and provide hope for a more optimistic future for their communities at large.”

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