There is nothing like a good party, especially when celebrating the return of more Jews to their ancestral homeland.
The Keshet Yehuda Pre-Military Academy recently celebrated its annual “Aliyah Party” for a small group of young men who are passing on the status quo of coming to Israel for a one-year “Israel Experience.” These soon to be lone soldiers have left their homes, family and friends to begin a new chapter in their lives in Israel.
They have plans of serving in combat units, and many have their eyes set on the Special Forces. What makes these young men so remarkable is that they decided on their own to make Aliyah after high school.
“It’s the best time to make Aliyah,” pointed out Rabbi Michael Cohen, the head of the Keshet Yehuda Pre-Military Academy’s integration program. “18 to 20 is the age after high school and before higher education which is best suited for Aliyah. At this age you can still join the natural flow of life experienced by many Israelis that age, who choose to attend pre-military academies called Mechinot. By the time one is on the job market he is 100% Israeli and is on equal footing with the locals.”
When asked, “How did you come to the decision to leave it all behind and make Aliyah at this age?” one of the young men replied: “It was Parshat Shelach, the one that talks about the spies who went into Israel to check out the land. In the end, the spies returned and all but two had a bad report. The two were Joshua and Caleb. I asked myself if I was living in those days, who would I have been with? It didn’t take me long to know…now here I am!”
An Israeli student could not resist adding his two shekels worth and said, ”I have a lot of respect for these guys. They come with no friends or family and can hardly speak Hebrew and they have the chutzpah to tell me they are going to get into a better unit in the IDF than I am! I love them!”
Keshet Yehuda is a religious Zionist pre-military academy which was established in 1991 on the Golan Heights as one of the first such institutes in Israel. Today it is one of leading academies in Israel.
It prepares religious boys for their military service by strengthening the base of their religious observance, thus instilling in them a deeper and more profound understanding of what they are fighting for.
The aim is to educate the boys to become highly-motivated soldiers and officers serving both in the ranks and in special units, as well as to give them a strong moral and ethical base upon which to make difficult decisions when required. The academy’s goal is to bring up a generation of potential leaders of society. Keshet Yehuda has enabled nearly 2,000 young men to become leaders in all fields of Israeli society.
Within the academy is the integration program which absorbs overseas boys directly into the Israeli student body. This helps the young men overcome the common difficulties of being new to Israel, such as language and mentality. The continuous social contact not only teaches them Hebrew but also builds for them a solid social framework in Israel.
The program includes Limudei Kodesh and activities to strengthen their connection with Israel and help with the army. There is also an adoption program for lone students. Students always have a place for Shabbat and holidays.
This program provides a solid foundation for a young man who has made Aliyah or is considering it.
“The leadership at Keshet Yehuda recognized the need to create a Torah based integration program for young men coming to Israel after high school,” Rabbi Cohen said, explaining how the program was formed.
“The formula was to bring English speaking Rabbis and staff who could relate to what the young men would be going through, help with the Aliyah and army processes, provide emotional support, integrate the young men into the general Israeli student body and apply the same successful principles that have worked for our Israeli students for over twenty years,” he said. “It has been a huge success! The graduates from the integration program are coming out of the program well integrated and are achieving the same high level of army service as their native brothers!”
Keshet Yehuda’s challenge is to let more young men know about the program. Most of them learn about the program from word of mouth, links on sites like Nefesh B’Nefesh, or from surfing the Internet.
Avraham Venismach is the Marketing Director of the Keshet Yehuda Pre-Military Academy Aliyah & Integration program.