Maya Wegier of the IMPJ Mechina and Or Yagour of Mechinat Nachshon had a surprise in store for them at the start of their mechina year. Maya and Or, who are attending mechina through Yachad, were hosted by Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll in his sukkah. Together with other young people from all over the world, they discussed Israeli public diplomacy efforts in view of the anti-Israeli voices that are gaining steam on social media.
“The welcome at the Foreign Ministry was heartwarming,” said Or, who is from California. “At the beginning of the discussion, all the participants introduced themselves, where they’re from in the world, and what their plans are in Israel. During the discussion itself, we talked about how Israel presents itself and its views to the outside world, and how that affects its position in the world and hatred of the Jewish people. We also offered ideas for making information about the Israeli–Palestinian conflict more accessible. I learned from the meeting that in various places in the world, Israel is seen in a very different light, but without exception, most Israel haters don’t know the whole story at all.”
“I was really excited, because I didn’t think I’d be doing something like that as part of my year in Israel,” said Londoner Maya Wegier. “It was really interesting to hear about different people's opinions and experiences with Israel. I learned at the meeting about how Jewish communities relate differently to Israel. In my community in London, which is mainly Jewish, it tends to be relatively easy to express support of Judaism and Israel without needing to defend them or instigate a debate.”
The purpose of the event was for Foreign Ministry personnel to meet Jewish teenagers from the Diaspora and hear what they have to say about Israel’s public diplomacy work, as well as their experiences so far at mechina and other programs. They had a productive discussion that generated ideas for improving Israeli public diplomacy with the students’ help, by sharing information with them so they can disseminate it in their home communities and other settings.
Maya, who is going to university after her mechina year, said: “At mechina, I’ll be able to learn more ways of sharing good things about Israel and how I can do a better job of defending it. I expect to hear a lot of different opinions this year and learn more about this country.”
Of his decision to attend mechina, Or said: “I decided to go to mechina in Israel because I always knew I’d want to come back to live in Israel and serve in the army like every other Israeli citizen my age. The decision to spend a year at mechina before enlisting came from a combination of a desire for self-actualization through understanding the army and building up my values, so I can do my best serving in positions that will make use of my special talents and thus also serve my country in the best possible way. I also have a desire to get back in touch with Israeli culture and learn more about the country and Israel’s extensive history.
In the meantime, mechina is surpassing all my expectations, and could be described only as an unforgettable learning experience that develops independence, values, leadership skills, and lots of general learning.
In just the first three weeks of mechina, I’ve met lots of new friends from across the country who have helped me learn more about the culture and how things are done in Israel, in addition to developing lots of skills.”
Yachad, a program of the Joint Council of Mechinot, provides an opportunity for new high school graduates throughout the world to attend mechina, make Israeli friends, explore life in Israel up close, and learn in depth about Israeli history. The experience gives them the tools to provide a fresh perspective on Israel after they go back to their campuses and communities around the globe. This year, 100 students from Europe, North America, and East Asia are attending the 13 participating mechinot.