The Few, The Proud, The Teen Olim
Most American Jewish teenagers will at most visit Israel, either through an organized program, such as a summer camp, the Taglit-Birthright program or a post-high school gap year program.
But for some that is not enough. They want to make Aliyah (immigrate) to Israel right after high school, serve in the Israeli Defense Force and build a life in Israel.
How does something like this happen? How to their parents feel about it? After all, these young people could be quite comfortable moving along the conveyer belt of the “American Dream”, i.e. high school, college, job, family, dog, car, a house with white picket fence etc.
But these young people say “no thank you” and opt for the Jewish Dream. In recent history, this ancient dream has become a reality. It is if they feel the pull and nothing can stop it.
Sometimes their parents support the decision. The main objections parents have are that their kids will be far away. This is perfectly understandable. But in the new age of web 2.0 and jet planes, the distance is less. The internet and mobile devices have made it possible to see one another in real time communication.
“I grew up in an environment in which I was told Israel is the place for Jews to live. The funny thing is that those that said that are still living in America and recite the same thing,” remarked Menachem, who recently moved to Israel from New Jersey and is currently serving in the IDF.
Menachem is not alone. He and others like him have taken the leap of faith and made Aliyah right out of high school. One might think that at his age he would be making an impulsive and immature decision. This could not be further from the truth. With the help of Nefesh B’Nefesh, an organization specializing in Aliyah from the United States and Canada, Menachem planned his entrance into Israeli life in a well thought out and methodically manner.
Upon his arrival as a new immigrant, he attended a unique program that helped him prepare for the army and for general life in Israel. Keshet Yehuda Pre-Military Academy in the Golan Heights. (http://www.jointheisraeliarmy.org/ ) or “The Mechina” as it’s commonly known, is an Israeli army preparatory academy housing over 130 Israeli teens that are preparing to go into the IDF. Most make it into the elite units and many become officers.
The Israeli Knesset voted 72-0 to make it law to fund pre-military academies such as Keshet Yehuda. When was the last time you heard about Jews agreeing unanimously?
Five years ago, the head of the Mechina, Rabbi Yaakov Feigenbaum decided to open his academy to overseas students, but in a very limited way. The idea was to integrate a small number of young men into the general Israeli student body.
The idea was so successful even participants with minimal Hebrew skills and social networks were achieving the same level of army service as their native-born counterparts.
“We integrate them from day one, no more than two English speakers in a room full of Israeli-born Israelis. More than anything, this helps them learn Hebrew faster and get used to Israeli culture and help build a social networks in the country,” explained Rabbi Michael Cohen, head of the Aliyah and Integration program at Keshet Yehuda.
“It prepares you in every way for the army and life in Israel. I have new friends, I can speak Hebrew well, I have learned more about why I am here and that my decision was the correct one,” Menachem stated.
For full coverage on this subject and more, download the latest episode of Aliyah Fever by clicking the down arrow.
For further information about Nefesh B’Nefesh: www.nbn.org.il/
For further information about the Keshet Yehuda Pre-Military Academy Aliyah & Integration Program: http://www.jointheisraeliarmy.org/
You can catch Aliyah Fever on Israel National Radio every Wednesday at 12pm Eastern Time, 7pm Israel Time http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Radio/