Mechinat Beit Yisrael
It’s hard for two conch shells to have a real conversation
Each one bends an ear to her own sea.
only the pearl dealer or the antiques dealer
can state without doubt: [they were in the] same sea.
Keshev, T. Karmi, Kinneret Zamora – Bitan
Pre-Army Learning, Volunteering, and Leadership Program
In 1997, Kvutzat Reut founded Mechinat Beit Yisrael. It is located in the heart of the Gilo Public Housing Project.
Mechinat Beit Yisrael is an answer to the deep rifts dividing Israeli Jews into right, left, secular, Haredi, religious Zionist, traditional, modern, rich, and poor. The mechina promotes understanding and builds unity by teaching young people to work together for the common good despite cultural, socioeconomic, and religious differences.
Every year, approximately 70 high school graduates from all over the country and from a wide range of religious, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds come to Mechinat Beit Yisrael to spend the year delving deeply into Jewish learning, social action, and community building in preparation for a meaningful IDF service.
The mechina stands on three pillars:
learning, social action, and communal living.
Study leads to action, and social bonds cultivated through mindful living as a group create a fertile environment for personal growth and leadership development.
We believe that Torah learning embraces the complete expanse of Jewish intellectual and spiritual experience. Torah study means everything from traditional Talmud study in the beit midrash, to prayer in nature, to modern secular Israeli thought, to Hebrew poetry, to Chassidic reflections, to Jewish philosophy, to self-reflection through the lens of Jewish texts. We believe that the purpose of immersing ourselves in this multifaceted Torah learning is to acquire the values and capabilities to actively repair the world.
Students volunteer at least 10 hours/week in the Public Housing Project and wider Gilo area. They tutor and mentor children and youth, visit and support elderly residents, develop nature sites, help in kindergartens and schools, cultivate community gardens, and develop public spaces.
Students live, learn, and volunteer together as a diverse group. With the guidance of seasoned Beit Yisrael educators and community members, the young people acquire the skills and shared language necessary to live communally with people with different religious practices, socio-cultural backgrounds, and political beliefs. The students take responsibility for all areas of mechina life.
Students participate in a number of treks and tours across Israel: in the desert, the North, the South, and Judea and Samaria. They learn to engage constructively with complexity, and to build bonds of unity and community despite differences in values and opinions. Encounters with Israel’s diverse populations equip the students to be strong young leaders with deep commitment to Israel rooted in familiarity with its many people and places.
Physical fitness, orienteering, meetings with military personnel, preparation for navigating the complexities of army service, and development of leadership skills in preparation for values-driven IDF service.
Mechina Director Hoshea Fridman-Ben Shalom embodies a paradox in Israeli society—a rebbe from the house of Ruzhin, he is also a Brigadier General in the IDF and is a lifelong pioneer of non-denominational Jewish studies. He was awarded the Avichai Prize for his “pioneering initiatives to deepen the tolerant discourse in Jewish society in Israel, through the establishment of the first co-ed, non-denominational pre-army preparatory program.” He imbues the mechina with the spirit of an Israeli version of chassidut—Chassidut Artzisraelit. The mechina returns to the central value of the original Chassidic movement—that every single Jew has the ability to connect directly to God. In the Beit Yisrael incarnation of chassidut, every viewpoint and practice is heard and valued. Classes encourage discussion, and we place emphasis on personal discovery and growth as an integral element of repairing a fractured world.
The mechina staff and teachers are members of the Beit Israel community who see their work in the mechina as part of their lifelong purpose and are a source of inspiration in their lives as well as their teaching.