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The Hannaton Mechina: Learning to Accept Differences While Living a Meaningful Jewish Life

“The most impactful thing I learned at Hannaton is the importance of democracy and pluralism in a society, through the lens of Judaism.”

Chen Ofir, 26 years old, from Rosh Haayin is a graduate of the Hannaton pre-army Mechina. Currently a captain and top commander in the special unit, Maglan, Chen will be concluding his seven-year army service this October with plans to pursue a law degree.

Chen shared that his time at the Hannaton Mechina was “an extremely positive experience. It taught me much about myself and others. Being part of the group was very meaningful in that it forced us all to step outside of our comfort zones and taught us to accept each other’s differences and how to live together and learn in the same classroom.”

The Hannaton Mechina, currently in its ninth year, is a religiously diverse and inclusive pre-army program that gives participants the tools they need to lead and be agents of positive political and social change during and after their army service. It is the only Mechina in Israel that is affiliated with the Masorti movement, with the goal of promoting religious pluralism in Israeli society and in the IDF.

Core focuses of the program are study, leadership training, the exploration of Jewish-Israeli identity, participation in community service, experiential and historical learning through tours around Israel, and engagement with Hannaton’s Arab neighbors in order to facilitate dialogue and change.

Chen credits the Mechina for teaching him “when you put aside your cynicism and allow yourself to be open to hearing opinions that are difficult for you to comprehend, as well as to encounter ideas that go against your personal beliefs, you then understand the importance of living in a society where everyone has the freedom to voice their opinions, and you develop the desire to be part of such a society. I am so grateful to be part of this type of environment today. Without the Hananton Mechina, my readiness to accept and include others would not be what it is today.”

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