Aharai! B'ir offers a unique model where participants continue to live at home for six months as they prepare for the IDF. Throughout the program, they have the opportunity to form friendships with people they never would have met and engage in identity-building, while also working in their local communities.
Programs, like Aharai B’ir, are known in Israel as Mechinot. Their purpose is to allow highly-motivated and talented high school graduates to defer their entrance into the IDF in order to prepare for the most physically or intellectually demanding military assignments. Typically, Mechinot attract young adults from Israel’s upper middle-class suburbs. Aharai B’ir is unique because it draws participants from the country’s socio-economic or geographic periphery.
The program provides participants with educational trips around Israel, career building workshops, and physical training. Unique to this mechinah, is that participants also have the option and time to gain outside employment, which is often important to these young Israelis who come from economically challenged backgrounds. In fact, shortly after this year’s course began, Yefet attended a career workshop and then nailed down her first job, working in a café near her home. She also volunteers once a week at her old high school, where she can share some of the lessons she has already learned in Aharai B’ir and empower young girls like herself.
Recognizing Yefet’s innate leadership abilities that are beginning to blossom, her 34 peers selected her to represent this year’s cohort at the opening ceremony in Jerusalem. In her speech, she stressed tolerance, respect, leadership and social action. "We are no longer kids,” she said “but young adults who choose to swim against the current rather than with it." She added that she already feels a part of something bigger: a network of supportive peers with whom she learns and studies in an enjoyable environment—for the first time in her life.
At the opening ceremony, Danny Rosner, chief executive officer of the national Aharai! group, took the opportunity to praise the program's partners and the participants parents, telling the participants, "Partnership is one of the main values we teach – we do things better together."
Nir Lahav, The Jewish Agency’s director of social action, added: "A lot of people just talk about doing, but for [these participants] today is all about actions. Mechinah and preparation for a significant army service encourages social responsibility within growing sectors in Israeli society."