The Mechinot

The Pre-Military Academies (Mechinot)

Eran Gal-Or

My name is Eran Gal-Or. I am twenty-nine and work as the content manager at Maslulim, a publishing company that I founded with my father. I also am a tour guide, a staff member at the Bnei Zion Mechina in Tel Aviv, and the head of Action Academy, a program for alumni of mechinot (pre-military leadership academies) who have completed their service in the IDF.

Eran Gal-Or

My name is Eran Gal-Or. I am twenty-nine and work as the content manager at Maslulim, a publishing company that I founded with my father. I also am a tour guide, a staff member at the Bnei Zion Mechina in Tel Aviv, and the head of Action Academy, a program for alumni of mechinot (pre-military leadership academies) who have completed their service in the IDF.

I was born in 1984 to an old Jerusalem family and studied at Enhanced Jewish Studies (Tali) schools and the Conservative high school in the city. While in twelfth grade, I decided to defer my military service by a year to join the second class of Ein Prat—The Academy for Leadership, in Kefar Adumim. At the time, I had no understanding of how critical a decision I was making or how great an influence it would have on my personal life, my worldview, and my current (and apparently future) work.

During my year at Ein Prat, I was introduced to the complex social reality of the State of Israel, learned much about myself and my abilities, made good friends who have stayed with me, and most importantly, deepened my roots. First, I formed a stronger connection with the Jewish people, the Land of Israel, and Israeli society, which led me to develop a sense of responsibility for them. Second, thanks to my work on the Hiking Committee, challenging field weeks of hiking across our beautiful country and meeting its people, and Saturday morning hikes in Prat Wadi with our dear guide Noam Adoryan, I leaned to hike and recognized the tremendous strength of the link between people and land, between me and the earth—the power of putting down roots in the ground.

While in the IDF, I served in a navy intelligence unit. After being discharged in late 2006, I set out on an extended hike around Israel. I didn’t have any particular yen to canvas the whole world and make my way through exotic locations in India or South America. My mechina had left me with an ardent desire to spend time on foot getting to know my way around my home—the Land of Israel—before setting my sights on foreign trails. After a number of weeks of planning, on the night after Rosh Hashana of 2006, I began a seven-month trek that took me from Mount Hermon to Eilat. I did not want to hike the Israel National Trail. I wanted to go wherever my feet might take me and experience the wealth of sights, rich history, and fascinating people along the way. My father, David Gal-Or, who was at a turning point in his life, accompanied me during the first week of my travels (in fact, he later joined me for many other parts as well). Together we trekked from the heights of Mount Hermon along the Hazuri, Govta, Hermon, and Senir Wadis to the heights of Ramot Naftali. We made our way across the Hula Valley, climbed up to the Golan Heights, descended to the Sea of Galilee … and continued ever onward.

Before we had hiked far, it became clear to us that far too few people make the decision to get to know our beautiful land in this way, not least because we found that there was no accessible, accurate, and reliable resource that could safely guide us on our way. The gut feelings I had learned at mechina came back to me: how could I help the people of Israel form a stronger bond with and love for our state and our land?

An idea quickly took shape. I began keeping a finely detailed record of the journey, and we soon realized that this was an idea that we could take far. “We’ll publish a hiking guide. We’ll give anyone who chooses to stay at home a good option for recreation: setting off for the outdoors. We’ll give him all the most exact, varied, and accessible information there is.” We already had the name of the book running through our heads: Fall in Love with Israel All Over Again. The title captured the feeling with which we woke up every morning: whenever we go outside and began walking, we again fall in love with our land.

More than six years have passed since then. During that time we founded Maslulim, the leading publishing company in the field of hiking in Israel today. Our work there is hiking: we write and edit series of hiking guides whose purpose is to heighten the love of the people of Israel for the Land of Israel. I believe that the general public needs nothing more than a gentle push—an accessible, convenient source of information and some pictures—to provide inspiration to leave home for the outdoors. There, in the midst of the wilderness, is where the connection takes place. Hike after hike, time after time, the love intensifies and the bond tightens. I have no exact way of measuring the influence of the project, but based on a thorough knowledge of the field and the conversations that I have with hikers every day, I have absolutely no doubt that we are moving in the right direction. More and more people are going out into nature, choosing to spend a Friday afternoon on the shore of a brook, searching out sites that are in bloom during the winter and spring, and hiking their way through our history and sources.

During the past six years, in addition to writing and publishing books, I have been a partner in the creation and educational administration of the Bnei Zion Mechina in Tel Aviv. My year at Ein Prat, which motivated this work, together with the constant encouragement from my activities at the Bnei Zion Mechina and simply being there, gives me the strength to continue working and exert a powerful ethical influence on the public that reflects my sense of mission. I am proud to be a part of the incomparably important educational project that the mechinot are, and I am grateful for my year at Ein Prat and the years I have spent on the staff of the Bnei Zion.

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