Bezalel Wiberman, former member of the "hilltop youth", is now opening a mechina in honor of Liel Gidoni, a friend who was killed in Operation Protective Edge.
The Liel Mechina is to be aimed at teens at risk, most of them high school dropouts and those who were so behaviorly challenged the army didn't want them.
A mechina is an Israel post-high school educational program, generally lasting one year, which prepares students either for service in the IDF or for acceptance to an institute of higher education.
"This project is the same one Liel was told to fulfill. It uses the strength of the Givati Orev anti-tank unit in which we served. We were supposed to carry out a specific mission, but an hour or two beforehand our orders were changed and Liel was sent to find a tunnel and did not come back. This all happened during our one-sided 'ceasefire.' Later in that 'ceasefire' Hadar Goldin was also kidnapped and killed," Wiberman explained to Arutz Sheva.
Describing his feelings, Wiberman continued, "I want to honor the memories of these three boys, by helping those boys who need a chance."
The project is located in the Kiryat Moshe section of Jerusalem, and aims to give boys at risk both a sense of security and solid values before they are drafted in to the army.
"We work with the army to help them enlist, so they'll have the best chance in life," Wiberman said. "I want to expand my project, and create a mechina. These kids come at age 18, and the army and most mechinas don't want them, so they just go back to where they were, which is a negative situation. We want to raise these kids higher, so they'll be drafted to the army.
"The mechina will integrate agricultural work with physical and cognitive exercises. We'll also put a special emphasis on values. We work with social workers, and the atmosphere is like that of a family. We already have 15 boys who are waiting to start with us. They're walking around and ask us every day what's happening and when they can start mechina. What we're missing right now is the budget. Most mechinas are funded by the Education Ministry and the Defense Ministry, but our youth is not considered fit to serve in the army, so we won't get any money until we see some success," he explained.
Wiberman emphasized that his mechina is not intended specifically for "hilltop youth," many of whom did not find their place in existing educational institutions, but for any youth who finds himself in a similar situation.
Wiberman himself told about how he witnessed a suicide attack at Pat Junction in Jerusalem, and the sights and smells of that traumatic incident were engraved in his being, causing him to "lose interest in his studies at a young age and start messing around with the law, first with nationalistic activities and then degenerating to petty criminal offenses." In the end, he ended up joining the "hilltop youth," where he was adopted by an army officer from a commando unit who helped him straighten out and enlist.