Last Tuesday, an amendment to the Mechina (Pre-Military Leadership Academy) Act that will formalize mechina attendance by students with disabilities passed first reading at the Knesset. The Mechina Law, originally passed in 2008, requires that the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Defense jointly fund the mechinot based on the number of students at each mechina. However, the law does not cover young people with disabilities, because they are not subject to the draft, so mechinot receive no government funding for them.
This lack of financial backing is a problem for young men and women with disabilities who want to attend mechina. Until these students finish obtaining volunteer status from the IDF and the army officially notifies them that they are going to be drafted, they are not recognized as regular mechina students, so the government does not
fund them as it does other students. The amendment, proposed by MK Omer Barlev and cosponsored by other Knesset members from both the coalition and the opposition, would give regular status to mechina candidates with disabilities and allocate spaces for them even before the IDF recognizes them as volunteers, thus helping the mechinot to include them as students.
Speaking before the vote on the bill, MK Barlev said that “a central part of the enterprise of the mechinot is deepening the values that they instill in their students, inclusive of pluralism. The proposed law that you have before you will give such an opportunity to [these] wonderful students as well and create a more tolerant, more attractive reality for us as a society. The contribution of these young people is not only theirs, but also ours, thanks to the act of recognizing them as equal and recognizing their rights and outstanding abilities by means of their taking a meaningful and involved part in society, because the strength of a society is measured by the variety that it has within it and its ability to incorporate groups that are different from each other.”
In the past year, some 30 students took part in Shibolim, the mechina disability mainstreaming program. We hope that this amendment will bring far more participants to the program in the coming years.