Pre-military preparatory programs for teenaged youth from Israel’s geographical and social peripheryderech-eretz1-300x200 were founded in 2011 for the purpose of making pre-military education programs accessible to teenagers all over Israel, with a focus on geographical and social peripheral areas.

The Spirit of Israel supports the pre army preparatory programs: “Derech Eretz”, “Alma” and more which gives many teenagers a chance to plan for their army service, develop a sense of social responsibility and find self-fulfillment on a personal, social and national level.

In the Spirit of the Program:

The timeframe between finishing high school and enlistment in the IDF is crucial for the development of Israeli teenagers. In Israel there are many pre-military preparatory programs, but most of them are offered to youth who belong to the Israeli social elite or those who are identified as “prone to be at risk.” “Derech Eretz” was started especially to enable teenage youth from the entire population to join a preparatory program that enables integration into the communal way of life, studies in Judaism, leadership and democracy along with social activities, to engender a fundamental change in their lives. This change will be manifested in a meaningful army service, higher education studies and becoming integrated in the centers of social influence and activism in Israel.

The “Derech Eretz” Model:beach

Today, “Derech Eretz” operates in two centers in the Negev: Nitzana and Yerucham. The preparatory program is based on a new model in the field of education and runs for only six months. This enables the students to enlist on their original military induction date without the need for lengthy delays of the army service. The program commences with the conclusion of studies in July and runs until March.

The unique model on which “Derech Eretz” is based can be duplicated and applied in various centers around the country. We believe that students who start their army service when they are equipped with the tools that are given them in the preparatory program will experience success which will serve them for the rest of their civilian life. The aspiration is for the students to join Israeli society at the end of their army service as leaders, activists and contributors who will be useful members of their communities.

The students: The preparatory program is an opportunity for a close gathering of youth from diverse populations: traditional, religious, secular, new immigrants and graduates of youth villages and boarding schools from poor or middle class families.

Workshops: In the course of the program, the students study the heritage of the nation of Israel and the land of Israel, discuss values and examine matters of personal and national identification and being both Jewish and Israeli. This is accomplished by means of diverse leadership and empowerment workshops, along with survival workshops and field trips.

Lectures: The students partake in enrichment lectures and lessons which broaden their horizons and enable them to acquire skills in independent study, ethical thinking and creativity through encounters with diverse characters and issues.

Activities:  Students of the preparatory program participate in physical fitness activities and volunteer in their communities in over ten different centers in Be’er Sheva, Yerucham and the Ramat Hanegev Regional Council; assisting the elderly and holocaust survivors and working with refugee children from Eritrea, and starting next year also working in the Saharonim prison. The students do collective agricultural work for the duration of two weeks and assist the farmers in Ramat Hanegev. The staff members encourage them to work together, take initiative, become involved and take responsibility in all life domains. All of the activities are consolidated for a personal and group-level empowerment process, at the conclusion of which the students see themselves in a new light and learn that they are able to meet any objective and challenge that they undertake.

Housing: The students live in the site of the preparatory program and are responsible for managing their daily affairs, organizing field trips and their volunteer activities in the community.

The Staff: The staff operates jointly with the IDF’s manpower branch in order to integrate the preparatory program graduates in suitable jobs in which they can contribute from their abilities and skills and enjoy, for their benefit, a meaningful army service. At the end of their army service the participants of the preparatory program are required to perform three months of community service, in projects of their choice. Moreover, they can join post-military six-month programs, which supports them in the transition from the army to civilian life and helps them get acclimated.

Graduates:  Students who graduate “Derech Eretz” start their adult lives with a sense of high capability, the joys of accomplishment and a genuine enthusiasm to live meaningful lives in all their circles of influence: personal, familial, communal and national.

Forward Thinking with Feminine Leadership

In 2013 the unique and innovative “Alma” for Feminine Leadership preparatory program began operating in Ofakim, focusing on young women before their induction into the IDF. The program was conceived with the belief that at meeting grounds for women there are latent opportunities for a profound, strengthening and meaningful process that will lead to a reduction of social and gender gaps. The program encourages the female students in the preparatory program to fulfill their raw potential, and live meaningful lives by taking responsibility in all life domains.