Description of Program
Yachad Gap Year gives you the opportunity to have the ultimate immersion experience in Israel. Your Israel experience will be more up-close and personal than any other because you will be doing it together with your Israeli peers. Yachad gives you the opportunity for personal development through a combination of studying, hiking, volunteering, experiential learning and the acquiring of leadership skills. Our framework encourages its participants to develop independent thinking and to enhance their ability to cope with future challenges and tasks of adult life. Yachad focuses on giving its students tools to become social leaders whilst exploring and experiencing Israeli society.
The JCM offers a unique gap year program for high school graduates from Jewish communities throughout the world. Yachad enables young Jews from outside of Israel to experience a 10-month Mechina program completely integrated with Israeli peers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Mechinot involved in the project include: Nachshon, HaEmek, Lachish, Beit Yisrael, Meitzar, Telem, Galil Eliyon, Chameish Etzbaot, Chanaton, Rabin, Bina, Arava, Aderet, Be'eri, HaYerushalmit and Ein Prat. They are spread throughout Israel, from the Golan Heights to the Negev.
Some thirty years ago, a comprehensive educational process began among the Zionist religious public with the aim of connecting high-school graduates to Israeli society. About twenty years ago in the midst of the disruptive atmosphere felt by the Israeli public as a result of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, a group of teachers, supported by their religious associates, decided to establish similar educational settings for the general public. Those institutions are called Mechinot – gap year leadership academies. Their goal is to produce an ethical and social leadership that would lead to significant change in Israeli society. Today, the Mechinot enterprise has a total of about 50,000 alumni.
Today there are 57 Leadership Academies (Mechinot), spread across the country for high school graduates who defer their compulsory military service for a year. Mechinot participants combine educational activities in the community with in-depth study of subjects relating to Jewish, Israeli, and Zionist identity:
- - familiarity with Israel’s' social fabric, its history and geography.
- - Israel-Diaspora relationship.
- - Mental preparation for becoming better soldiers and officers in the IDF.
- - involvement at decisive junctions in Israeli social and economic systems.
The JCM was founded in 2009, and serves as a nonprofit organization for the federation of 57 Mechinot. The JCM's mission is to ensure a coordinated effort in their representation of the Mechinot programs vis-à-vis the state institutions, pooling resources for projects, and promoting the internalization of visionary values, topics and goals in the Mechinot.
As part of the process of education and cultivation of leadership within the Mechinot, the JCM has taken the decision to build a broad and deep association between Israeli high-school graduates with leadership skills and Diaspora Jews as the organization considers them to be a reserve source for Israel's leadership. We consider the endorsement of this goal to be a win-win situation. To the Israeli youngsters this is an opportunity to form a close acquaintance with diaspora Jews, the conflicts in which they are involved, and with their mutual ties of commitment. This is something we consider to be essential for tomorrow's leaders. For Jewish youth of the diaspora, spending a year with Israelis and becoming acquainted with the country and its society while examining their ties as diaspora Jews, is a unique opportunity incomparable to any other currently existing program.
A growing interest in the Israeli Mechinot, from youngsters abroad, has made it clear of the necessity to form an organized body to aid and accompany the applicants through the process. Yachad works to expose the Mechinot to potential high school seniors and accompanies them through the process of choosing the Mechina best suited for them. Every year Yachad holds a preparatory seminar, in April, to aid participants upon their arrival in Israel. During the year Yachad accompanies the Mechinot staff in the special and unique care of students from abroad.
As mentioned above, the program is suited for 18-year old high school graduates who are passionate about exploring Israel from within the country, and who wish to form their own connection to Israeli society. A basic knowledge of Hebrew is required.
- Pass a suitability screening interview.
- Participate in a preparatory seminar in New York.
- Register with the Yachad program in accordance with its rules and regulations.
Every November, YACHAD representatives arrive in the U.S.A to meet with different Jewish communities, institutions, schools and families who have an interest in our gap year program. Our informative meetings are aimed at Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors. For Sophomores and Juniors, this will primarily be a talk to learn about the program. Interested students will leave their details for future contact. For Seniors, the meetings in November will begin the registration process. These meetings will help them to become familiar with the various Mechinot, before making a selection. The Registration Procedure is as follows:
- Have an informative talk with a Yachad representative.
- Visit the Yachad website. Choose 3 or 4 Mechinot of interest to you, and inform the Yachad representative who will connect you with the relevant staff member.
- After learning about your selected Mechinot, set interviews.
- On receiving confirmation from your Mechina regarding your acceptance, Yachad will send you a registration kit.
- A mandatory preparation seminar will be held in April in NY by Yachad representatives. Following the seminar there will be a parents' information session via zoom.
- Another get-together will be held in Israel on the last weekend of August (dates may change).
Registration begins each November and finishes in April. The various Mechinot might close their registration before the official closing date in April if all vacancies have been filled.
Mechina tuition varies between $14,000-$16,000, and includes all educational activities, room and board, mass transit to Mechina activities, health insurance, third-party insurance, and laundry.
What is Yachad Gap Year?
The word Yachad means "together," Yachad Gap Year gives you the opportunity to have the ultimate immersion experience in Israel, by participating in Israeli mechina programs with Israelis your age.
What is a "Mechina?"
The word mechina means "preparation." When young Israelis want to take a gap year after high school, to learn more about their culture, society, and their Jewish identity, they can participate in one of 60 mechina programs. Just as Israelis use their mechina experience to launch them into elite units and leadership positions in the IDF, you can use your mechina experience to enhance your resume and improve your standing in university admissions.
What kinds of programs are available?
Today, there are mechina programs in all parts of Israel, representing all different parts of Israeli society. There are mechinot in the bustle and excitement of Tel Aviv, in the natural beauty of the Golan Heights, or in the serene calm of the Negev desert. There are religious Zionist mechinot, fully-secular mechinot, mechinot that bring religious and secular Jews together, mechinot that promote volunteering in Arab-Jewish coexistence projects, and more.
What if I'm not sure which mechina is right for me?
Not a problem! Just contact us, and we'll schedule a time to talk on the phone to help advise you on which mechina is right for you.
How do I sign up?
The first step in the process is to fill out our registration form. If you are still undecided about which mechina is right for you, we will contact you to help you make your decision. If you know which mechina you'd like to sign up for, we'll put you in touch with a representative of the mechina, who will continue the application process with you. The process varies for each mechina, though the process will likely include a phone/Skype interview. Once you have completed the process and been accepted to the mechina, a Yachad staff member will be back in touch with you to help guide you through some of the logistical processes.
Who is behind Yachad?
Yachad is a project of the Joint Mechinot Council. The Council represents all 60 of the mechinot currently operating in Israel. Yachad represents those mechinot that are interested in absorbing participants from abroad, both to offer a one-of-a-kind gap year experience for young Jews from around the world, and to bring fresh and unique perspectives into the mechina environment to benefit Israeli participants as well.
Do I have to know Hebrew?
Here is an answer from a Yachad alumnus:
“Personally, I had pretty weak Hebrew skills when I arrived, and I can say that the first couple of months were difficult to adjust to. However, I don't remember a day that went by where I didn't have tons and tons of support from my friends. People were constantly translating for me at the beginning, and sometimes my friends even did reviews of lectures so that I could take away as much as possible.
The Israelis want to help. There have always been people doing everything they can to make sure that we are on the same page as everybody else.
If you come to Yachad with motivation and drive, you will accomplish anything you want. I'm proud to say that I now have strong Hebrew speaking skills.”
I am an Israeli citizen. Do I need to worry about being drafted into IDF service?
No. There are various allowances made by the Ministry of Defense to allow Israeli citizens who have been living abroad to return to Israel without being drafted. Please contact us so that we may provide information specific to your situation.