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Women’s Day: Leaders of women’s mechinot talk about the single-sex mechina experience

Not long ago, women’s mechinot, such as Tzahali and Lapidot, were mainly for young religious women getting ready to serve in the IDF. In recent years, though, a number of non-Orthodox mechinot have answered the challenge, too. In honor of Women’s Day 2020, a mechina director and a mechina head explain why they chose to offer a single-sex mechina experience

Monday, 10 August 2020 00:27

Daya Badash, director of Mechinat Melach HaAretz for women

“Women, women—a bag of snakes,” goes the saying in Hebrew. It’s no coincidence that the snake shows up in that stereotype about women’s space. We’ve come a long way since the story of the Garden of Eden, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Hello. My name is Daya Badash, and this is my third year as director of the women’s branch of Mechinat Melach HaAretz, in Ein Gedi. I’m a mechina alumna myself, and I spent years working in educational therapy. Today, I’m in a place where I feel all the loose ends come together: educational therapy, Judaism, gender, group, family, and community.

So why a women’s branch? Why separate by gender?

We chose to go on our journey together and separately: together with girls from all strands of Israeli society, and separately from the boy’s branch. We believe that this connection and separation, for the purposes of the year and the journey we want to go on, is best. This way, every boy and girl has greater room to maneuver, have new experiences, and create. The gender separation also aims to help both genders grow in various roles (both women’s and men’s). A significant part of our mechina is the call for a connection between different social groups, which can be created only if every one of us strengthens his or her identity.

“Women’s space isn’t a substitute for a shared space, but it has an important place in our lives as teens and adult women in Israeli society, because it lets us be full partners in leadership, in the family, in wages, under the law, and in practice”

When I tell a candidate she’s been accepted to the mechina, I tell her, “I have faith that we’ll be able to go on a wonderful journey together.” This journey starts with acceptance and love, continues with responsibility and partnership, and ends with faith and pride. Over the course of the year, we challenge the students to expand their comfort area, to overcome and take responsibility, to mold their reality as individuals and as a group, to look back with courage and sensitivity, and to plan ahead with creativity and passion, and of course to love. They go on this journey together with their friends—different life stories that become intertwined as the year goes on.

I’m proud to be part of a women’s space where there’s room for everyone to be who she is, a space where there’s lots of room for creativity, emotion, change, love, acceptance, and development. Women’s space isn’t a substitute for a shared space, but it has an important place in our lives as teens and adult women in Israeli society, because it lets us be full partners in leadership, in the family, in wages, under the law, and in practice.

So I would suggest a correction to the saying with which I started: “Women, women—where do I register?”

תמונה של דיה והחניכות: (שניה משמאל) דיה בדש.Daya (second from left) and her students.

Reut Yehezkeli, head of Mechinat HaRo’ot LeMerchakim

Hello to all sexes—women, men, and everyone in between. My name is Reut Yehezkeli, and I’m the head of Mechinat HaRo’ot LeMerchakim.

Women’s Day. It’s so great to have a day that’s all about us, that serves as a wonderful reminder of who we women are—beautiful, wise, wonderful, good, complete. This day also is an important reminder to us that we still have a long way to go and a lot of work to do to close the gaps in society and in understanding the wonderful concept of “woman.”

First of all, a word about the mechina: Mechinat HaRo’ot LeMerchakim is a field mechina for girls. These are our two pillars. The girls’ development at the mechina parallels the treks that take place at the mechina, progressing from 4-day treks to 12-day treks, from north to south, covering all of our beautiful country.

The treks and series in the field are long and challenging, they demand commitment, and during them the girls need to cooperate and work as a team. They haul the equipment on their backs—food, sleeping bag, camping mattress, and clothing. They sleep under the billions of stars, deal with extreme situations, and find themselves amid all the hardship and difficulty. For them, the mechina is an amazing platform for connecting with themselves, and from there with all aspects of their environment.

Such a personal journey has to take place in an enveloping, warm, protected, and conducive environment, and there is no better environment for undergoing such a process than an environment of women. The decision to hold the mechina in an environment of women brings together this female power, and every one of the girls and the staff reveals it to the others and to herself. The way our students at Mechinat HaRo’ot LeMerchakim talk about their experience can give us a peek into their inner world and what the mechina means to them.

What did I get? Self-love, contemplation, searching, depth, friends for life.

What did I give? Support, knowledge, love, understanding, a place in the world, healing.

Such a personal journey has to take place in an enveloping, warm, protected, and conducive environment, and there is no better environment for undergoing such a process than an environment of women. The decision to hold the mechina in an environment of women brings together this female power, and every one of the girls and the staff reveals it to the others and to herself. The way our students at Mechinat HaRo’ot LeMerchakim talk about their experience can give us a peek into their inner world and what the mechina means to them.

In order for someone to enter a mechina that is entirely woman, she needs to have courage—the courage to hold up a mirror to her face all day. What this means is being engaged in inward work that’s accompanied by lots of love, lots of concern, and most important of all, where they’re protected. We have a job in this world. A feminine job. To make the world better, more protected, more just.

Are we ready for it? For that, we need to be able to see all the ills of our society. The differences between the sexes. To take strength. To believe and to know that it can be better for us, because we deserve it! And for our children, because they deserve it—and it’s our responsibility.

Happy Women’s Day!! Our strength lies in our unity.

(שישית מימין), רעות יחזקאלי.
Reut Yehezkeli (sixth from left) and her students.