Today was the start of the Third Annual Nes Harim Conference, attended by 87 mechina (pre-military leadership academy) heads, branch heads, and directors and a considerable contingent from KKL. The conference started off with a discussion of regulation and safety at the mechinot in view of the disaster in Tzafit Gully that took the lives of nine young women and one young man. Shira Eting, head of Mechinat Bnei Zion, opened the session with an account of the housecleaning that the mechina and the association that operates it have done. Next, Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Shlomo Aharonishky presented the key findings of the Aharonishky Commission, which was appointed to construct the best possible model of operations and a clearly defined safety concept for the mechinot. Afterward, participants took part in a roundtable discussion of safety issues.
Lt.-Gen. Shlomo Aharonishky and Bnei Zion Mechina head Shira Eting. Credit: Noam Feiner
During the second half of the day, the pedagogy department of KKL led an outdoor training exercise. Then came a joint discussion of the collaboration between the Joint Council of Mechinot and KKL, with the participation of KKL regional directors and KKL Education Division Director Sar-Shalom Jerbi.
The rest of the conference was devoted to alumni operations, with a focus on how to sustain the alumni community, what the objectives for that community should be, and how to gauge them. Rabbi Eli Sadan, head of Mechinat Bnei David in Eli, discussed the challenge that alumni who join the officer corps face and the extended time they dedicate to career military service, and Joint Council CEO Dani Zamir spoke about the challenges that alumni encounter in the mission of strengthening communities in the periphery. Next, participants took part in a roundtable discussion of the ethical objectives set by the mechinot for their graduates, including joining the officer corps and signing up for extended military service, employment in the public sector, community building, and channels of communication with various alumni groups. A detailed summary of this part of the conference will be published separately.
Outdoor training led by the KKL Pedagogy Department. Credit: Noam Feiner
In the best tradition of the conference, the evening ended with a sumptuous supper, which Mechinat Arzei Halevanon head Rabbi Ze’ev Sharon marked with the celebratory completion of a tractate of the Talmud. Attendees extended their thanks to the mechina, government ministry, and KKL officers who participated in committees that formulated hiking and field activity procedures for the mechinot. They bade a sentimental farewell to outgoing Joint Council Deputy CEO Tamar Zeira, and concluded the evening with an enthralling inspirational talk by Maj.-Gen. (res.) Eliezer Shkedi about education, Zionism, and excellence.
Efrat Shapira Rosenberg of the Avi Chai Foundation started off the conference’s second morning with observations from the mixed community of Mazkeret Batya, where she lives. In her remarks, Rosenberg shone light on what it means for religious and secular individuals to work together and how an ongoing honest dialogue makes such coexistence possible.
Credit: Noam Feiner
After spending time working on trends with relevance to all mechinot, attendees sat down for a panel on the theme of Tolerance vs. Freedom, which addressed the debates that exist inside the world of the mechinot, the relationship between the Joint Council and the mechinot, the way forward, and where there is room for improvement. The panel began with comments by Aviya Rozen, head of Midreshet HaShiluv Natur, followed by Rabbi Eli Sadan, IMPJ Mechina head Shimon El Ami, and Mechinat Melach HaAretz–Ein Gedi director Yaron Isaac. Respectfully, with an eye to gaining a better understanding of the other, panelists talked about the complexities, difficulties, and dilemmas of their shared mission. Despite ideological conflicts, the panel discussion highlighted what those involved have in common: a desire to do good, make the world a better place, connect, and listen to each other.