“At the mechina, I acquired social skills. A lot of social skills – learning to be sensitive towards others and to understand people who are different than me. I grew up in an environment where everyone around me were overall similar to me in terms of their background and in terms of their world views. I learned how to be a friend to people who are different than me… As a soldier, and, today, as a commanding officer, it is important to know how to interact and get along with people who are different from you. After all, you are first and foremost dealing with people.”
Proud IDF Combat Soldier Sintayehu Genet
“I was born and raised in an Ethiopian village. In July of 2011, I came to Israel with my family… I studied at a boarding school in Hedera for 4 years until I finished high school… At Derech Eretz, I loved going on outdoor hikes and familiarizing myself with the people and places that comprise Israel. Subsequently, I feel more connected to Israel than ever before and really feel part of it…
Today, I am proud to be a combat soldier in the IDF, in the Golani (Infantry) Brigade. Derech Eretz helped me reach this unit. I came prepared, and was taught what to expect and so many aspects I had no way of knowing before.”
Keren-Or Dino: Speaking Up for Herself and for Others
“Before Derech Eretz I was very shy and had a hard time articulating myself in front of others. With the support of the staff and my new friends from the program, Derech Eretz gave me the tools to build up my confidence and learn to speak out.
Another challenge I faced at Derech Eretz was the outdoor trips. I hadn’t previously been the outdoors type. During the program, I went from waiting for that first long hike to end, to enjoying every minute of being outdoors – the views, the navigating, disconnecting from our cell phones, lighting a fire – everything. I felt a wonderful sense of accomplishment to complete each hike. I also understood that I have the ability to succeed, and the ability to exceed my own expectations.
I am now in the army, grateful to be serving as a Terms of Service Officer – a meaningful role with a clear mission of helping others.”
From Philadelphia to Kmehin to Dog Handling in the IAF: Derech Eretz Graduate Ilana Hirsch
“Growing up in Philadelphia, I had always wanted to come to Israel. At Derech Eretz, I fulfilled my goal of learning Hebrew. By the end of the pre-military program, I was speaking, yelling, laughing, singing, and texting in the one language I’d never been allowed to study as a kid. Beyond the immersion in Hebrew and with Israelis, I learned to think on my feet, the tiyulim were incredible, and the mechina even had us running 10k by the end which really showed me what I am capable of. By the time the mechina ended, I was ready to be a contributing member of society and join the army.”
Headed to College: Derech Eretz Graduate Assaf Donyo
“The value of trying to make the world a better place and the value of hard work are ones that I better understand thanks to Derech Eretz, and I have decided to take this with me onwards, for the rest of my life.”
Able to Fulfill My Goals
“I have always aimed high, but thanks to Derech Eretz I was able to succeed in fulfilling my goals and serve in Unit 217. The Derech Eretz pre-military program prepared me for the IDF on so many levels, and I came ready to face the challenges that came my way.”
To this day, Derech Eretz is a part of my life
“Derech Eretz changed my life. I was destined to be a truck driver, but with the confidence I received at Derech Eretz I made it to the top units of the Nachal Infantry Brigade and served a meaningful service, participating in three IDF operations, and taking part in anti-terror warfare….
To this day, Derech Eretz is a part of my life. At Derech Eretz we performed community service, and I realized that I would like to continue to contribute positively to my society. Today I serve as a police officer in the city of Rahat.”
We learned how to make our service in the IDF meaningful
“At Derech Eretz, we learned how to make our service in the IDF meaningful. Today, I am proud to serve as a combat soldier in the rescue brigade… Derech Eretz was no doubt an integral part of my basic training and preparation.”
Rising to the Challenges of Life
Growing up in Arad, was not easy for Tali. While the city of Arad may be known outside of Israel as a place mentioned in the bible, or a city where asthmatics come to due to its clean, dry climate, within Israel, it is known as a small southern city with a relatively low socio-economic level including a low average income and high percentage of people on welfare and/or receiving child benefits. Growing up in Arad and coming from a broken home, Tali didn’t always show up at school. She mainly worked, as much as possible – to help support her family and help out at home. Life was difficult, but she was doing her part to help out. She recalls Yonatan coming to her high school to speak about Derech Eretz, and the option of attending a social-educational pre-military program (mechina), but didn’t seriously consider it at first.
Tali nevertheless came to the Derech Eretz Open Day, admittedly more to hang out with friends than to actually see the program, but something clicked for her and she instinctively wanted to stay in the serene Nitzana scenery. “It was something I knew was important for me to do,” she says. “I needed to get away from my surroundings and do something for myself. At that time, I was anyway no longer living at home, so I thought that Derech Eretz could be my home until I would join the IDF.”
A Diverse Campus
Find out what it was like for one Haredi participant, Shlomo, in Nitzana…
Derech Eretz focuses on Israeli youth and young adults, providing social-educational programs for those entering the army, and those exiting the army. These are critical life stages during which people begin to assume increasing ownership over their identities. At Derech Eretz, participants are constantly forming their life views and establishing their social and individual identities, as Jews and as Israelis, as they make their way towards adulthood. Part of what we do at Derech Eretz to facilitate this personal growth is expose our youth to a wide range of views, people, organizations, places and issues so that they can form their own informed opinions, and learn critical thinking, based on knowledge and first-hand encounters.
Derech Eretz helped me succeed in the military
Yossi Mahari was born in Ethiopia and came to Israel at two years of age. The eldest brother of 6, and son to hardworking parents, Yossi grew up in what he describes as “not the best of neighborhoods” which is what motivated him to seek out a place where he could fulfill his potential and arrive at Derech Eretz.
At Derech Eretz, one of our goals is promoting an integrated society with equal opportunities. In Israeli society, the army is one of the few places in which there is social mobility and joining an elite unit is synonymous with increased opportunities in the job market later in life.
Today, Yossi serves in Maglan – a Special Forces unit which specializes in operating behind enemy lines using advanced technology. While the training program for Maglan is one of the toughest, Yossi was prepared and motivated to succeed. He is only one of only a few Ethiopians to ever serve in this unit.