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Ongoing Updates From The Joint Council of Mechinot

The way to mechina passes through Newark. Here’s what happened at the Yachad introductory seminar this year

40 American teens who will attend mechina next year traveled to Newark for an introductory seminar. Future Mechinat Nachshon student Asaf Shchory: “I’m really excited to go and learn more about Israel, politics, leadership, and Israeli society”

23/06/2022 - 09:13

Near the end of this summer, 70 Yachad students from all over the world will pack their oversize bags, say goodbye, and depart for a year away from friends and family to attend mechina in Israel. Enrolled at a range of mechinot, they’ll willingly tackle the challenges of being so far from their families and living in a different country in order to enrich their knowledge of Israel and the Jewish people, acquire tools for the future, and meet new friends.

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To soften the landing in Israel, 40 of these young men and women came to Newark in late April, a few days after Pesach, for a weeklong introductory seminar. In Newark, the students met Geffen Collins, who will assist them next year as director of Yachad, and Mechina of the Upper Galilee head Oded Stein, who gave them a taste of mechina education. They also participated in workshops about Jewish and Israeli identity, directed activities themselves, and took part in a festive kabbalat Shabbat.

“I heard about the Yachad mechinot, I had a look, and I discovered that this was a perfect place to go for someone who doesn’t live in Israel and came to the United States before he was a teenager. It looked like a place where I’d also be able to get acclimated during the transition to Israel, improve my Hebrew, meet amazing people, and learn about Israel, Israeli society, and what it means to be Israeli in a less formal way than in school.”

Before the seminar, many participants had never come face-to-face with the mechina world. We talked with Asaf Shchory, soon to be a student at Mechinat Nachshon, who came from Sunnyvale, California, for the occasion and told us why he decided to spend next year at a mechina in Israel.

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“I’ve always had a desire to go back to Israel after finishing high school in America,” Asaf said. “I heard about the Yachad mechinot, I had a look, and I discovered that this was a perfect place to go for someone who doesn’t live in Israel and came to the United States before he was a teenager. It looked like a place where I’d also be able to get acclimated during the transition to Israel, improve my Hebrew, meet amazing people, and learn about Israel, Israeli society, and what it means to be Israeli in a less formal way than in school. Since I spent my high school years in America, there are a lot of things that are natural for someone who grew up in Israel but I have to learn, and I think that mechina will be the natural place both to connect with other Israelis and to learn about the things we have in common.”

Still, for those coming from outside Israel, mechina is a doubly formidable experience. For them, the daily challenges of mechina come on top of the distance from family, friends, and all that’s familiar in life. We asked Asaf how he was doing ahead of the transition: “The truth is, I’m really, really excited. Every day I’m more and more eager to go to Israel already and start mechina. I want to be closer to the country where I was born and my extended family. I want to meet new people and make friends. I’m really excited to go and learn more about Israel, politics, leadership, and Israeli society. I’m also nervous, because it’s going to be my first time living away from home, far from my parents. It’s stressful that even on weekends when all the others go home to their families, I won’t be able to go back home to my parents, but what reassures me is that my brother and his girlfriend live in Israel, there’s already a family of family friends who will adopt me and I’ll be able to spend weekends with them when I don’t have plans, and there’s also my extended family: my grandfather and grandmother (my mother’s parents), my father’s and mother’s siblings, and their families.”

“Meeting other people who are going to be making the trip to Israel, who are in exactly the same situation as I am, with the same fears and worries, helps a lot in terms of self-confidence and nervousness about mechina.”

Such qualms about the year ahead are a familiar thing. That’s why the Joint Council of Mechinot decided to host an introductory seminar even before the students get to Israel. The experience, said Asaf, was extraordinary: “The seminar was amazing. We had two days of a mechina simulation. We had different activities about topics such as negotiations, politics, and more. I also got to know lots of other people who chose to leave behind the comforts of home in America and go to Israel for the once-in-a-lifetime experience of going to mechina.

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I think the seminar is one of the most important things for people coming to Israel from abroad. Aside from the fact that it was fun and really, really interesting and informative, we met other people who live outside Israel, which is very important. Meeting other people who are going to be making the trip to Israel, who are in exactly the same situation as I am, with the same fears and worries, helps a lot in terms of self-confidence and nervousness about mechina.”

“I really hope that my personal development will be enormous. I’m hoping to learn and internalize as much as I can in all the different activities we experience—to become a better Israeli, get to know Israeli society better, understand lots of things that I can learn as an outsider only from the perspective of a news article or a conversation with my parents or friends, but at mechina I’ll be able to learn from the inside.”

“I really hope that my personal development will be enormous. I’m hoping to learn and internalize as much as I can in all the different activities we experience—to become a better Israeli, get to know Israeli society better, understand lots of things that I can learn as an outsider only from the perspective of a news article or a conversation with my parents or friends, but at mechina I’ll be able to learn from the inside.”

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