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“A gift for life”—Tal Ben-Aharon on last week’s Yachad seminar

This past Thursday and Friday, the Joint Council hosted a seminar for foreign students attending mechina through Yachad. Tal Ben-Aharon of Los Angeles, who is attending Mechinat Chamesh Etzbaot, talked with us about his experiences so far

Wednesday, 24 November 2021 17:13

The mechina year is an empowering and challenging experience for every student. However, students from abroad face a whole extra set of challenges. They leave their families and friends, board a flight to Israel, and then need to deal with a totally new situation in a different country. That’s why foreign students from different mechinot came together this Thursday and Friday for a Yachad seminar marking the end of the beginning of the year.

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At the seminar, students from across the world met, got to know each other, and talked in depth about the challenges they face and the questions that will occupy them all year, especially post-mechina plans and questions of identity. A lot of Yachad students are used to being considered Israelis back at home. When they’re in Israel, though, they’re the non-Israelis.

One of them is Tal Ben-Aharon, a student from Los Angeles at Mechinat Chamesh Etzbaot. “When I came to mechina,” says Tal, “I was really nervous about being homesick, and I don’t know whether it’s just the people at my mechina, but I’m thankful every day for the amazing people I’ve met. I feel like I have a family here.

“The seminar brought me back home. Everyone spoke in English, we talked about our shared experiences, and there was a sense that everybody belonged.”

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Still, the seminar brought me back home. Everyone spoke in English, we talked about our shared experiences, and there was a sense that everybody belonged. I learned a lot from the activities and talking with other students about what it means to be a non-Israeli here. Other people are dealing with the same problems I am. We discussed them with each other and we learned together. It’s amazing to be in the same place as so many people who are going through the same things I am.”

Many Yachad participants are thinking through questions about their future, especially whether to go back home to college, or stay in Israel and join the IDF. At the seminar, they were able to get advice from both alumni who went back to attend college and others who continued on to military service. They also met a representative of Garin Tzabar, who told them

about a local Garin Tzabar group especially for mechina graduates. Seminar attendees also took part in a decision-making workshop.

The seminar wasn’t just about personal challenges, though. Another goal was to give Yachad participants knowledge and tools so they can be more effective advocates for Israel after they finish mechina. They took part in workshops on public diplomacy and debating, and in general had lots of involved discussions about current challenges and the challenges to come.

“For me, mechina is a surprising experience because I didn’t think it would be so meaningful for me. It’s really a gift for life.”

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“After the seminar, when we went back to mechina, I felt like I had a home base as a non-Israeli, like I knew so much about how to make my way through the year,” said Tal, who is planning to join the IDF after graduating.

Despite the challenges and homesickness, when he was asked about his experiences so far, Tal’s eyes lit up: “Every night I go to sleep with a smile on my face. They gave me a first-rate welcome here. Every one of the students has his own inner light and meaning. My counselors are like teachers. I couldn’t have imagined I’d find myself in a place like this. I catch myself becoming a better person. I’m overcoming fears and apprehensions about being part of a group and speaking to an audience. For me, mechina is a surprising experience because I didn’t think it would be so meaningful for me. It’s really a gift for life.”

Click here to visit the Yachad website

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