Neta Dvir (26), coordinator of the Netaim program in the Golan, alumna of Meitzar Academy
Although she did the job of Meitzar Academy alumni coordinator from her apartment in Tel Aviv, the decision to settle in the Golan Heights and serve as coordinator of Netaim is one that Neta made while picking apples in Odem last summer. “When you’re there, you understand the enormous need for Israelis who support this effort and take part. “Agriculture in the Golan Heights today is totally dependent on Druze and foreign workers, but it’s hard to attract Israelis to manual labor,” says Neta. “This is our chance to help those working in agriculture, to get folks to leave behind the clamor of the city and experience work and community in the periphery.” Netaim is an agricultural and educational program targeting graduates of the IDF and alternative national service (sherut leumi) who are interested in work eligible for government grants in the Golan. Aside from getting up early and working in various plantations, many hours are devoted to learning: getting ready for civilian life, an emphasis on nature and sustainability, and a deep connection to the essence of the agricultural mission, to the seasons of the year and taking tender care of the produce. The folks in the program are involved in the inside workings of the kibbutzim and other communities, and meet, among others, people who took agriculture a few steps forward and established an ecological farm.
“The program is not intended only for mechina graduates. The program is actually carefully tailored to the maturity and ripeness of those who have finished their service in the IDF or alternative civilian service and are interested in personal development that’s less common but definitely necessary. Getting up at sunrise and being out in the field all day, in the north, and without the traffic and pollution—that’s our secret. Lots of times, folks who have finished serving fly off for the Great Hike or head to school right away. We’re interested in creating a cushion of time for development. Often, mechina alumni attest that in the army, cynicism takes over and the innocence of the time at mechina disappears. Netaim aspires to remove that rust and to take people back to the place where they’re engaged in physical work and taking part in meaningful learning.”
Omer Hadar (22), alumnus of Mechinat Arava–Paran, Paran Packing House
Omer was discharged from the Maglan Unit, but his longing for the desert where he lived while at mechina brought him back to manual labor right there. “I discovered that people are wary of working in agriculture because of the lack of a social life,” says Omer, “but that’s a
mistake. Our lifestyle here is easy and calm, and to me, this is the ultimate way to stop for a moment in this time after army service and before going to school and choosing a career. “Obviously in other places it’s possible to earn more too, but when you come here, you leave one comfort zone and enter another, much more relaxed comfort zone.” Omer did not first discover agriculture after his army service. He obtained his previous knowledge at mechina: “When we were introduced to the industry at mechina, it really spoke to me, the lifecycle that agricultural people follow. People don’t get that we’re part of a production line of a resource that’s important to the country, and it’s satisfying to feel that up close. I appreciate the abstemiousness, I’m definitely connected to the place and in my estimation, I’ll stay here.”
Omer Borstein (23), alumnus of Keshet Yehuda Pre-Military Academy in the Golan Heights, agricultural worker in the Gaza perimeter
Omer started making his agricultural dreams come true half-a-year ago, in the apple and cherry orchards of Keshet, but a medical procedure that he needed to undergo changed his direction somewhat. Even after recovering and taking the psychometric exam, he didn’t forget about his desire to go back and work the land, and he decided to return to agriculture—this time on Kibbutz Cholit. “When I started looking into agriculture, I wavered between the Gaza perimeter and the Arava. My friends tried to tell me that every security disturbance would affect my work and hurt my timetable. To me it was clear that if I was working in the industry, it would be best for me to go to the place where I was most needed,” says Omer, now a member of HaShomer HaChadash, a mixed group of religious and secular graduates of the IDF who guard, among other things, farms in the area. I believe that my perpetual desire to come back to this place is rooted in the education I received before mechina and also at mechina, where the link to the soil of the Land of Israel, based on belonging and our old connection with it, was stressed. Right now I’m looking into how I can turn the ideal into a profession, maybe at the [Hebrew University] Agriculture Department in Rechovot.”