New Mechina Program Founded by IDF for Ethiopian Israelis

In recent news, a pre-army program, or a new machine program, has been launched for Ethiopians belonging to the State of Israel. One branch in Eli of the Bnei David Mechina is the founder of the program, which combines education regarding Ethiopian Jewry with preparation for service in the IDF. Typically, a pre-army mechina program is an educational program that strives to aid fresh high school graduates to prepare for their time in the IDF. This one has been named Derech Avot and will be headed personally by Rabbi Lior Nagesa, as well as 31 youngsters from across the country. 

Children of immigrants to Israel, also known as olim from Ethiopia, will be participating in the specially developed program for army preparation. Nagesa revealed that the reason behind the introduction of the program was an identity crisis experienced by the second generation of those immigrants, who had migrated from Ethiopia. According to him, the generation in question is not aware of the legacy that its ancestors left behind and is looking to fit into the Israeli society. On the other hand, many of these immigrants are of the opinion that they are not accepted in the country. 

Recalling his own experience, Nagesa added how he himself experienced an identity crisis when questioned about the Sigd holiday while attending the officer’s course. He said that he did not have much to offer until he remembered the story of Aliyah that his mother had told him. The Rabbi went on to talk about Esther, who was a prisoner of Zion, being held in an Ethiopian prison for more than a year and a half, in order to make Aliyah. Nagesa added that he received a positive response from his friends present in the course to the story he told. He also talked about how it had moved him when he had heard his mother tell it for the first time. In his words, it had encouraged him to gather more information about his roots. 

The Rabbi claimed that he had reached a breaking point in the year 2019 when a wave of protests had erupted soon after the police killed Solomon Tekah. He recalled that he had gathered with three of his friends, who all belonged to different parts of his life. All of them had been rabbis and were children of olim, who had arrived in Israel from Ethiopia. He expressed pride at the fact that he and his friends are educators who are not only connected to the younger generation, but to their roots as well.

While discussing his reunion with his three other friends, Nagesa revealed how they all related on the topic of experiencing an identity crisis. Together, he stated, they had come to the conclusion that they needed a pre-army mechina program to allow young people to learn of their cultural values, as well as prepare for service in the IDF. He asserted that this would also give them a chance to reconnect with their roots. 

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