The students have emptied out of the mechinot and gone home. Soon they’ll start getting ready for what comes next, packing huge backpacks and traveling to the gates of the Bakum, where new IDF recruits report for duty. No less important than those hulking backpacks, they’ll carry with them the experiences of a whole year of mechina, the knowledge they gained, and a sense of mission that will stay with them through the army years and forever. To celebrate the end of the year, let’s recap a few of its most meaningful moments.
The year in numbers
A total of 4,032 students graduated from mechina this year, five new mechina locations opened, and operations began for the first time at Mechinat Rut.
Some 27 percent of this year’s students came from the periphery, about 100 came from afar as Yachad participants, and some 50 took part in the Shibolim disability mainstreaming program. The year also saw a continued rise in the number of women in management roles at the mechinot, up 218 percent since 2018.
Joint memorial for Yitzhak Rabin
“The dozens of mechinot and their thousands of students are a major opportunity to change our society and lay the foundations for a better, more unifying future”—Former PM Naftali Bennett
This October, for the second time, the mechinot held a joint memorial for Yitzhak Rabin. The event’s goal is to promote unity and help mend the rift left by the Rabin assassination. In remarks broadcast at the event, then-Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said: “The dozens of mechinot and their thousands of students are a major opportunity to change our society and lay the foundations for a better, more unifying future.”
Stepping up as COVID testers
In a joint initiative with Magen David Adom, mechina students rapidly mobilized in early January to boost manpower levels at COVID antigen testing sites as infections surged. They received specialized training, headed to the testing stations, and served there with distinction. All told, 13,000 students took part. An average of 70 were active every day, with 140 students from 32 mechinot taking part on the busiest days. The students’ quick response and volunteering spirit say more than a little about who they are. When called upon, they respond with excellence and a deeply felt sense of mission.
Conference and Talmud study in memory of Esther Pollard
In February and early March, 1,000 students at the Orthodox mechinot dedicated time day and night to studying Tractate Megillah in pairs and groups. On the morning of March 3, they came to Jerusalem to celebrate completing the tractate 600 times, dedicating the effort to the memory of the late Esther Pollard.
Addressing the students, Jonathan Pollard said: “The power of the Torah is that it always connects and unites. We have to remember that we’re part of something larger, of Am Yisra’el. We are soldiers of Hashem, and we devote ourselves to the people of Israel, the Land of Israel, and the Torah of Israel.”
Celebrating Shibolim at the President’s Residence
“The mechinot are such an enormous thing. There’s no doubt at all that today, the mechina world forges our leaders. I see it in all the fields of civil service. I see quality that I didn’t see in the past”—President Isaac Herzog
Following a five-year pilot, Shibolim, the disability mainstreaming program of the mechinot, is now fully funded by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Ministry of Health. The Joint Council continues to run operations.
To mark the end of the pilot phase, President Herzog hosted an event in early February at his official residence, where he met Shibolim students and alumni and spoke with them about their experiences. Congratulating the organizations behind Shibolim for a job well done, President Herzog said: “The mechinot are such an enormous thing. There’s no doubt at all that today, the mechina world forges our leaders. I see it in all the fields of civil service. I see quality that I didn’t see in the past.”
Fourth annual memorial for Tzafit Gully disaster victims
On April 24, the heads of the mechinot and the families of some victims of the Mechinat Bnei Zion disaster in Tzafit Gully gathered in Yad Binyamin to remember those who perished and scrutinize the commitment of the mechinot to keep such a thing from happening ever again. Two days later, the Joint Council broadcast the event on Facebook and YouTube to all mechina students.
The mechinot were well represented at official government Independence Day commemorations. Munir Madi, CEO of Mechinat Kerem-El, lit a torch at the ceremony on Mount Herzl. He dedicated it “in honor of the students of Mechinat Kerem-El and its hundreds of graduates, and the entire world of the mechinot, an exemplary model of giving and Israeli partnership.” The Torch of the IDF was lit this year by Lt. Hadar Cohen, an alumna of Mechinat Lachish. She was recognized for her service in the Lehava Company, a unit of new immigrants at Michve Allon.
At the President’s Residence the next day, no fewer than 12 mechina graduates were among the honorees.
We’re proud of you!
Joint Council to issue new safety certifications
This June, four years after the Mechinat Bnei Zion disaster in Tzafit Gully, the Joint Council of Mechinot and the heads of the mechinot decided that as of next academic year, each mechina will be evaluated for a basic or advanced safety standard certification. Third-party inspectors will assess safety and preparedness at each mechina, both on site and in off-site activities.
We don’t have space for everything that the mechinot and the Joint Council did this year. Students had a wide range of experiences as volunteers, participated in many seminars and conferences, and persevered through a daily routine that strengthened them intellectually and socially.
We’re grateful to mechina staff members and our partners, and we wish our graduates an easy and meaningful conscription!
In the meantime, the mechinot are getting ready to welcome thousands of new students to another unforgettable year.