Michal and Danni, Parents of a member of the first graduating class of the Institute, 1999
Throughout Israel's 50 years existence as an independent state, serving in the army has always been uppermost in the minds of our 18 year olds. The security of our state was at stake, and serving was seen as an almost sacred obligation and duty, which was carried out with much pride. Today, our society is at a crossroads, confronted with many dilemmas. Peace treaties have been signed with some of our neighbouring states; others will hopefully follow in the foreseeable future. At the same time, the county cannot afford to be less vigilant. With the influx of so many immigrants in recent years, the social fabric of the country has undergone change. Religious issues have also surfaced. Keeping all this in mind, it is understandable that there is an ongoing search for personal, social and national identity among our youth and a perceptible shift away from former firmly entrenched norms and values. Our youth have questions and they seek answers. This is where the Mechina [Leadership Institute] comes in. It fills a need at a crucial time. Our daughter, aged 18, has been based for the last ten months, together with a group of youth of the same age, on a kibbutz in Upper Galilee. She is a participant in a pre-army, post matriculation course and has had an exceptionally enriching and rewarding experience. The framework provided helped expose her to the multi-faceted aspects of Israeli life. They received lectures by top teachers in personal identity, philosophy, tolerance and leadership and other relevant topics. Trips were arranged through-out the country to meet with, at first-hand, members of the various ethnic communities and to learn of their problems, there-by bringing into focus the plurality of our social fabric. They worked as volunteers with the young and the aged. They were invited to army bases for informative lectures. Debate was encouraged and a forum given for expressing and listening to opposing views on the important issues facing our youth today. On completion of the ten months, I have no doubt that the course has contributed in no small measure to preparing our daughter to face her future in a more confident, thoughtful and balanced manner and has helped to shape her sense of identity. Her horizons have been broadened beyond the limits of her school experience. On a personal level, therefore, I am deeply grateful for this. However, there is the broader issue of national responsibility, which has at all times infused the course. The organisers deserve to be lauded and encouraged for their initiative, drive and vision. I sincerely hope that the Mechina will be the fore-runner of many more to come, for in its success.