Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Creating Our Future Leadership

20 Iyar 5767 / May 8, 2007

It is banal to say that Israel is facing a major crisis in leadership these days. Elections alone cannot resolve it. An investigative commission of our political and security leaders - no matter how thorough in its recommendations - cannot resolve it. Mass resignations cannot resolve it (although I'd personally settle for that as a temporary salve).

To truly be a leader means to bring out the best in those being led, to motivate, to empower and to strengthen. It means to be an example of perseverance, honor, discipline and integrity.

But who leads the leaders? How are they created, if they can be created?

Recently, I was privileged to learn of a place where leaders are being created. Perhaps not leaders in the sense of politicians rising to the top in a game of influence, money and pull, but true leaders - people who lead by example; those very people of perseverance, honor, discipline and integrity that Israel needs.

The Mechina Program of the Northern Negev is a unique post-high-school, military preparatory academy that set as its goal the realization of the full potential of young Jews from Israel's underclass to become positive, contributing members of Israeli society. Focusing on youths from troubled or impoverished backgrounds, the Mechina seeks to transform low self-esteem, limited ambition and underachievement into motivation, self-respect, success and authentic leadership.

According to
the English-language website of this important, all-blue-and-white program, the Mechina gives its students "an intense year of quality Jewish education, an opportunity to move from risk to success, and most importantly, we ignite the spark in each of them to fulfill their innate potential, in a religious Zionist framework.

"Without the Mechina program, these students would have little hope of excelling in the Israeli military, or getting a higher education, or ultimately assuming leadership roles in their communities."

And the Mechina, established only five years ago, has already proven itself. 12 of the program's graduates received outstanding soldier awards, four became officers and one was granted the President of Israel's Award for Excellence in Service. And that is just what they have accomplished in the IDF - just wait until these young adults spread their wings and really begin to fly.

According to a 2006 UJA study, the Northern Negev Mechina graduates report increased motivation, strengthened values, greater self-assurance and a deeper commitment to their community and their Jewish identity.

The Mechina and programs like it, I believe, are doing more to bring about a positive change in national leadership than all 200,000 people who demonstrated against the government last week in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square. It may be the "long way," but it is the right way. And it's the only way that will last beyond next week's newspaper headlines - because it is based on a foundation that is older than last week's newspaper headlines.

To offer your help in transforming Israel for the better, contact Executive Director Naftali Kandler at
naftali@mechina.org.il or 972-52-4239740. Donations can be sent to the PEF Israel Endowment Fund, Inc. at 317 Madison Avenue, Suite 607, New York, NY 10017. In Israel, donate to "Mechina Kiryat Malachi" at the Mechina Program, POB 57, Kiryat Malachi, or by way of direct deposit to account no. 209396 at the Kiryat Malachi branch (450) of Bank Mizrachi (20).

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