Activities at the secular and traditional mechinot got started at the beginning of this month as they joined the Orthodox mechinot, which have been in session since August. The new students, fresh from their matriculation exams, left their families and traveled to the new homes where they will live for the next year. To mark the beginning of the year, the mechinot conducted various events, each in its own way.
Against this backdrop, we would like to a dedicate a moment of pained, thoughtful silence to the memory of our friends who perished in the mechina candidates’ hike in the Negev last year: Ella Or, Yael Sadan, Maayan Barhum, Tzur Alfi, Shani Shamir, Romi Cohen, Agam Levy, Galy Balely, Adi Raanan, and Ilan Bar Shalom.
“Like us, they were supposed to mark the first weekend at mechina and be excited about the new year,” said students at the Meitzar Academy for Leadership and Social Responsibility, who chose to commemorate those who perished with an outdoor classroom that they built in their memory.
Developing and growing
At One of Us(Hebrew), 120 students started the new year. This year’s beginning was especially festive: a new affiliate for women opened under the One of Us name, joining the mechina’s other two campuses, which have been operating for the past eight years.
In addition, a cornerstone-laying ceremony was held in Mitzpe Ilan (named for the late astronaut Ilan Ramon) for a permanent structure that will house the mechina affiliate named after Cpt. Asaf Ramon, who was killed in a flight training accident in 2009. President Reuven Rivlin and Rona Ramon, mother of Asaf and widow of Ilan, spoke at the ceremony.
Mechinat Beeri(Hebrew) first opened its gates just under three years ago to its first class, totaling 15 students. Now, with the arrival of the third class, the mechina is starting the year with 43 students. After three days of team building, including activities to familiarize students with the mechina and renovating its institutions, the students traveled to Kinneret Cemetery, where they held a memorial in honor of Berl Katznelson. At the historic cemetery, the students held a study session with Avi Zeira and were guided on a tour by historian Muki Tsur.
Hiking and connecting to our heritage
There is no feeling more satisfying than arriving at the final destination after a long journey, and this is why many mechinot chose to open the year with a hike to their respective facilities.
At The Upper Galilee Leadership Institute in the north, there were 160 students starting off the year. “The choice was made to start off the year at the foot of Koach Fort because it is an inseparable part of the story of the security of the Upper Galilee and Israel,” the mechina staff explained with excitement. “The fort symbolizes the spirit of 1948—the persistence, the resolve, the brotherhood among fighters, the pioneering, and the sacrifice.” After activities and talks at the adjacent Elah Camp Site, the entire group set out for a hike to the affiliate that would be their home for the coming year.
The Hayerushalmit Pre-Military Leadership Program(Hebrew), whose location you can guess from its name, actually chose to start off the year in Kiryat Gat. From there, the students embarked on a hike to the capital. For three days and three nights, they marched onward, contending with the challenges of the route and the challenges of arriving in a new, unfamiliar place. At the conclusion of the trek, they arrived in Jerusalem. They ran the final section, and were greeted at the entrance to their mechina by encouragement and cries of joy from alumni.
Bonding and connecting
Mechinat Arzey Halevanon(Hebrew) chose to start the year with a field week and team-building exercises at the KKL Nes Harim Center, near Jerusalem. The students participated in lectures on a wide variety of topics, tried their hand at outdoor training activities, learned the basics of navigation, volunteered in the local community, and more.
Before their first Shabbat at mechina, the students at Mechinat Bnei David(Hebrew), in Eli, headed out for a bike tour of the area. The students traveled through the neighborhoods of Eli and made their way to ancient Shiloh and Ein Oz. In Shiloh, they met up with Rabbi Sadan for a lesson and talk in the open air. They bid farewell to a special, jam-packed Shabbat with a bonfire and singing.
We wish the students of the mechinot, graduates, staff members, families, and friends a year of a strenuous yet meaningful and formative educational adventure, full of discoveries, questions, growth, in-depth learning, and doing good. Good luck!