Recruitment season for the 2021–2022 mechina year is essentially over. It’s no secret that as demand for spaces at mechinot increases, the mechina world continues to grow and develop. The proof is in the numbers. Yet again, this year thousands of Israeli teens submitted requests to defer their conscription so they could spend a meaningful, empowering, and formative year at mechina.
Putting things in order
Mechina recruitment season opens every year in September, under the leadership and coordination of the Joint Council of Mechinot. During registration, which concludes in December, mechina representatives travel to dozens of schools throughout Israel, where they hold introductory seminars for high school seniors. When candidates register, their details are forwarded to the relevant mechinot, which invite them to come and start going through the screening process.
That process has changed a lot in recent years. “A few years ago,” says the Joint Council’s Joint Recruitment coordinator, Ronnie Goldstein, “we migrated the placement process to a computerized system, which centralizes placement for all mechinot. It used to be that the mechinot would personally tell every candidate, after screening, whether he’d been accepted or not. Every candidate could get accepted to several places, and had to think it over and choose one.”
“With computerized placement, every candidate who’s found to be appropriate gets placed at just one mechina, according to his order of preference. He gets placed at the mechina he ranked first, or if not, then the second or third mechina, if they have space left,” continues Goldstein. “That way, the candidate can make a one-time decision that doesn’t drag on over time.”
Overloaded with demand
Almost ten years ago, during the 2012–2013 recruitment season, about 2,500 mechina candidates registered for screening. Since then, the number has gone up and up, reaching about 6,100 last year. The number of introductory seminars at schools has also increased with time, with 150 conducted this year.
“There were lots of lovely young men and women who just didn’t get in, not because they weren’t good enough, but just because there was a severe lack of space”
Recruitment numbers broke a record again this year. There were 7,600 registrants, an increase since last year of 1,500 young men and women who wanted to go to mechina for a year. “Statistically,” explains Goldstein, “there are more mechina alumni in the population every year, and it’s getting more common. If a person knows some mechina alumni, and he can look sideways and see what mechina gave them, then he automatically thinks about his child, a friend, or a relative. … That causes word to spread and creates acceleration pretty naturally.”
The Joint Council is keenly aware of the increasing demand. “This year we felt it like an explosion,” says Goldstein, “and there were lots of lovely young men and women who just didn’t get in, not because they weren’t good enough, but just because there was a severe lack of space. After placement ended, I got a lot of phone calls from interested people who sounded amazing, but there just isn’t space.”
Another 500 places would get filled in an instant
Of 7,600 registrants this year, only some 2,600 will be accepted and get to attend mechina. The number of places alloted by the Ministry of Defense for draft deferments has grown only modestly over time, and does not correspond to the significant growth in demand from year to year. “We can see from the past year that the small draft deferment quota is crossing a red line and unreasonable,” emphasizes Joint Council CEO Dani Zamir. “It is imperative for the government or the legislator to intervene in order to arrive at a balance between different population groups in the State of Israel. As of now, the gates of the mechinot are closed to many excellent individuals whom there is no reason not to accept.”
Given the educational outcomes of the mechinot, it’s not just Israeli society in general that this is hurting. “It comes across on the personal level,” explains Zamir. “It delivers an unjustified and sometimes traumatic blow to young men and women with outstanding abilities for whom no place is found, because of a limitation on spaces that does not depend on them.”
We can see from the past year that the small draft deferment quota is crossing a red line and unreasonable. As of now, the gates of the mechinot are closed to many excellent individuals whom there is no reason not to accept”
“There is a trend here that has proven itself and has been persistent for years. For three to four years already, we’ve been seeing a gradual increase in young men’s and young women’s interest in attending mechina, and this year there was a real, exceptional jump,” underscores Goldstein. “If these figures change for the worse in the coming years, it’ll be just because people are experiencing disappointment with the possibility of getting in, not because they don’t want to go to mechina, but because the message that will be spread is that’s it’s very hard to get accepted by the mechinot, and then teenagers won’t even try in the first place.”
The solution? Add spaces. “If they open up another 500 places,” promises Goldstein, “they’ll get filled in an instant. It won’t be hard to recruit people and get a hold of them. The demand is there. The number of places must be increased.”