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Shibolim closes out its fourth year: A Shiboletter with all the updates, brought to you by students and alumni

Shibolim, the program that helps so many young people with disabilities attend mechina, has completed its fourth year of operations. From volunteer work to the coronavirus outbreak, here’s a Shiboletter full of updates for the end of the year, with columns written by program alumni (including a winner of the President’s Prize!), a unique gallery of photos shot by a participant, and a couple that met thanks to Shibolim.

10/09/2020 - 23:47

Shibolim has finished its fourth year!

For us, like the rest of the world, this year brought all sorts of new challenges. We had to think outside the box, and we adapted our activities to the new normal.

During the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak, the mechina world went to work wherever volunteers were needed. I’m proud to say that most Shibolim participants were an integral part of this effort and the online learning at all mechinot.

This year, 32 students graduated from Shibolim, including four who are going on to a second year at mechina. We provided mechina staff with ongoing mentoring and training, went on accessible hikes, and started finalizing how the Shibolim alumni network will look going forward. This also was the third year of Shibolink, a collaboration between the Joint Council and the Ruderman Family Foundation’s Link 20 program. This year’s Shibolink group included 18 students with and without disabilities from five mechinot across Israel. The project that they chose was to promote accessibility in mass transit between cities in Israel. We’re proud of their successful work, and we hope that their publicity campaign and proposals will help bring about real change.

At the staff level, we’re nearly done with a knowledge development process. Once we’ve finished, a website showcasing the program’s knowledge package will go live. We’ve also finished developing the Leadership Map, a one-year guide for participating students’ personal development. The map is purposely broad in scope, and can be used for all other mechina students too.

During the time we were under lockdown because of the virus, we held Zoom sessions with program participants and alumni, and held preparatory meetings with the incoming members of the Shibolim class of 2021. It was great to hear current participants telling their successors about the meaningful journey they got to take thanks to their mechinot and Shibolim.

To all our graduating students: I wish you lots of luck as you embark on your new paths. I’m sure that the experiences of the mechina year will stay with you as you serve with meaning in the IDF, and throughout your lives.

Have a great, healthy summer!

Efrat Aharoni, Program Director, Shibolim

Shibolim is operated by the Joint Council of Mechinot in broad partnership with JDC–Israel, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Welfare, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Health, the National Insurance Institute Fund for Development of Services for People with Disabilities, the Ruderman Family Foundation, and UJA–Federation of New York.

טונוסאו אדיה

“My disability pushed me to want to be more successful”

, a Shibolim participant at Mechinat Lavi, suffers from vision problems. Yet he’s inspired by his disability to capture new heights. His message: “You’ve just got to understand that if you have a handicap, it isn’t the main thing. It’s secondary and it’s meaningless if you choose to believe it is”

Click here for the full story.

טליה חנתון שמרטפות

Relief for medical workers: Mechina students deploy to provide daycare for doctors’ children

As part of the coronavirus relief campaign of the mechinot, Talya Hazani, a Shibolim participant at the Mechina at Hannaton, helped to provide daycare for medical workers’ children. “It’s great to have the opportunity to give the medical personnel a break and help take care of their kids”

Click here for the full story.

Eran Arzi: Group-building

Dear Readers,

My name is Eran Arzi. I’m from Kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek, and a graduate of Shibolim and the Mechina of the Upper Galilee at Maayan Baruch.

This year I went through a major change—inside myself, in the way I think about the future, and when it comes to taking an interest in things that didn’t interest me until this year, such as economics and social issues. I feel that mechina got me to leave the bubble where I spent my whole life. Even though there were misgivings and challenges on the way, such as being so far from my parents and so far from home, and a different schedule from the one I had at school, the feeling of independence and overcoming obstacles was bigger than I can describe.

The following pictures are a small taste of what I experienced this year, the most meaningful (and different) year in my life. Enjoy!

Eran is graduating from the Mechina of the Upper Galilee at Maayan Baruch. He is a member of the fourth class of Shibolim and receives mentorship from Milestones for Life. Eran will serve as the military photographer of the IDF Navy Training Base. Good luck!

Ido Guttman: “You’re going to make lots of mistakes. Not learning anything from them is the biggest mistake you can make”

Let me start with a confession. Before I came to mechina, I didn’t know what would happen or what to expect, in any respect, whether socially, academically, or in terms of my routine. I felt total uncertainty even though people I know told me that when they decided to spend a year at mechina, it was one of the best decisions of their lives. Despite the misgivings, I thought I didn’t have anything to lose, but I did have what to gain from a mechina year.

On the first day of mechina, I was relatively withdrawn. I was afraid of responsibility and making mistakes, and I was worried about experiencing difficulty, bringing my personality to mechina and expressing myself. Today, I can say that the difficulty built me up and strengthened me and made me into the best possible version of myself.

Over the year, I had the opportunity to confront my fear of the unknown, make friends, speak, participate and share more than usual, learn about things in which I’m interested, such as the army, fitness, game theory, Iran, and economics, work under pressure, make mistakes, and get back up. There’s a saying I once heard: “You’re going to make lots of mistakes. Not learning anything from them is the biggest mistake you can make.” It’s a saying that’s stayed with me since I first heard it, and I did in fact learn from my mistakes.

I enjoyed the very broad variety of content that I got during the mechina year, and I believe I came out of it a wiser person. I dealt with challenges that I’d never experienced, and I emerged stronger. I learned success, I learned to make mistakes and a sense of victory from them.

Ido is graduating from Mechinat Nachshon at Shoval. He is a member of the fourth class of Shibolim and receives mentorship from Gvanim. Ido will serve in a challenging and interesting capacity in IDF intelligence. Good luck!

A personal column by 2020 President’s Prize winner 2nd Lt. Maya

If someone asked me to sum up my year at mechina, I would summarize it with three words: “discipline,” “challenge,” and “experience.” I got there knowing nobody, ready for a year full of experiences, but I had no idea of how much those experiences would stay with me until today, two years after I graduated from the program.

We learned, we volunteered, we lived as a group, all as preparation for the real thing: serving with meaning in the IDF. That’s where Shibolim—a program without which there’s no doubt my year wouldn’t have looked the way it did—came into the picture. Thanks to the program, I hiked in the field for the first time, I took part in a leadership program in which we launched a digital campaign to encourage the conscription of volunteers, and I just experienced mechina the same way everyone else did—with the necessary modifications and mentoring, but without any special breaks.

I’d be lying if I said the year wasn’t challenging, but challenges help us grow. They say that mechina is preparation for the army, but as far as I’m concerned, it was preparation for life. Thanks to it, I learned how to fall and get back up when things are hard, how to believe in myself, and how to keep on fighting for what’s important to me.

During the mechina year, there were lots of times when the value of leadership came across. I was in charge of recruitment for the next year, and I saw how the mechina was making an effort to include me in all the hikes while emphasizing the importance of mainstreaming people with disabilities in all parts of life. I discovered that I’m able to put together an agenda and speak in front of an audience. I volunteered with Shema, a nonprofit for the education and rehabilitation of children and teens who are deaf or hard of hearing, and I became more aware of the challenges faced by other members of the disabled population. Mechina helped me realize that I’m able to develop a life of independence: to leave home, live communally, and manage on my own power.

Right after mechina, it was clear to me that what came next was the real deal: joining the IDF. After almost two years in the army, looking back, there’s no doubt that if I could go back in time, I would choose to have the experience again. I’m thankful for the privilege of taking part in Shibolim. Good luck to everyone in the next class, and remember: where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Maya is an alumna of Mechinat BINA and a member of the second class of Shibolim. She is voluntarily serving as an officer in the IDF Liaison Division and was awarded the President’s Prize last Independence Day! We have no doubt that she will continue to excel!

WhatsApp Image 2019 12 03 at 18.55.33Maya at the beginning of her military service

Something small but good

At Shibolim, it’s important to us to stay in touch with our graduates, to see them succeeding at the goals they set themselves, whether by serving with meaning or afterward—in their studies, in civic activities, and in connecting to the world of mechina alumni.

We were very happy to discover at one of our alumni events that two program graduates have become a couple.

Let us introduce Idan Ehrlich and Keren Kalmar. Idan, an alumnus of Mechinat Lachish at Nachal Oz and the second class of Shibolim, is performing alternative civilian service (sherut leumi) at the Democratic School and lives in a Nitzan residential project in Modi’in. At his side is Keren, who attended Mechinat Bnei Zion for two years and was a member of the first class of Shibolim. She made her way into the army with the help of Equal in Uniform and is serving as a volunteer in IDF Prison 4. She’s scheduled to be discharged this August.

Although it’s been nearly two years since they graduated from mechina, Keren and Idan are in touch with their mechinot, come back for class weekends, and meet up with other alumni. They’ve been together for ten months already, spending time together mainly on weekends. They met through Keren’s mother, Smadar, who works at the school where Idan is serving.

Keren said, “The first time, I was afraid. I didn’t want to be in a relationship. I was afraid to meet someone new that way.” After consulting with girlfriends and her mother, Keren decided to give it a try, and found that the encounter was fun and not scary at all!

Keren and Idan enjoy hiking, going to shows, and most importantly eating (especially corn pizza).

Their answer when we asked them to provide a tip for a good relationship: “Stay together.”

Good luck!

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