• Photo: Courtesy of Dror Ovadia
Jewish Social Action

‘None of the stereotypes are true:’ Jewish Agency pre-military academy opens Israelis to diversity

Israel boasts a rich mosaic of religion and culture, but recognizing and understanding the country’s diversity isn’t a given for all young people who call the Jewish State home. For Dror Ovadia, a 19-year-old Jewish Israeli who grew up in Jerusalem, the epiphany came during an experience at one of The Jewish Agency for Israel’s pre-military academies.

Upon participating in “Israeli Society Week” at the Derech Eretz pre-military academy in Nitzana, Dror met fellow Israelis who ran the gamut of backgrounds: Arabs, Druze, Bedouin, settlers, ultra-Orthodox Jews, and members of the LGBTQ community.

“I saw that none of the stereotypes are true,” Dror recalls, adding that upon visiting an Arab home in Jaffa, he realized that Israeli Arabs “want peace…They want people like us to come to their house and get to know them.”

Dror’s experience at the pre-military academy underscores how Jewish Agency programming intimately connects Israelis from all walks of life, while assisting Israel’s vulnerable and peripheral population sectors.

At Jewish Agency pre-military academies, Israeli high school graduates participate in Jewish study, volunteerism, and leadership training. These institutions help create a more engaged citizenship and a brighter future for Israel.

For Dror, the journey to the pre-military academy began when he visited Holocaust-related sites in Poland and felt a strong connection to his Jewish roots. He realized that he aspired to affect change in Israel, and after graduating high school, he decided to enroll at the Derech Eretz Pre-Military Academy’s Nitzana campus in the Negev desert.

When Dror arrived at the academy, he immediately felt at home.

“After three weeks, I felt I’d known everyone for years,” he says.

Five days after completing his studies at the academy, Dror enlisted in the IDF Paratroopers Brigade. He is currently on track to become a commander.

Given his transformative experience in Nitzana, Dror strongly advises Israeli high school students to take a break before mandatory army service in order to attend a pre-military academy.

“It helps you understand yourself better. We need young people to go through this process,” he says. “I have friends my age in the army, but they’re like children.”

Dror says the pre-military academy gave him the confidence he needs not only to be the best soldier he can be, but also to be successful after his army service is complete.

“It makes me feel less afraid about going into the world alone,” he explains, adding, “The academy prepared me for life, not just for the army.”

While Dror is a strong believer in the pre-military academies in general, he believes the academy in Nitzana has an advantage over its counterparts due to its isolated location.

“At Nitzana, we were disconnected from the rest of the world and truly had time to think about who we are and what’s important,” he notes.

Dror insists that the experience at the pre-military academy changed the course of his army service for the better. He originally aimed to join an elite commando unit, but the pre-military academy made him realize that he preferred to follow a commander track in which he would be able to become a mentor for others.

“I want to be the commander of new recruits during their basic training,” he says. “I want to help them understand why they’re there and help them overcome all the mental difficulties.”

“The pre-military academy,” Dror concludes, “was the best period of my life.”

To learn more about The Jewish Agency’s pre-military academies, visit: http://www.jewishagency.org/jewish-social-action/program/218.


This article was originally reported by Sarah Bronson for The Jewish Agency for Israel


13 Dec 2017 / 25 Kislev 5778 0
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