Emunah, a leading Jewish religious social action organization that aims to advance the status of women, has thrown its support behind the mechina, providing both funding and public support. During the recent Emunah World Convention, the group paid a visit to the mechina to hear from the students and faculty and to lend moral support.
They listened carefully as Shani from Beit Shemesh described how the program had helped her succeed in being accepted to become an IDF medical instructor when she enlists in the summer. Pninit, a classmate from Nechusha, explained how the mechina course of study had strengthened her Torah outlook and “taught us how to live in a group for the first time we’re out of the house.”
Ronit Tal, one of the mechina instructors, told the visitors that a typical day includes morning prayers, sports, classes in social issues, Talmud, Mishnah, psychology, ethics, art and culture. During the year, students also take part in three or four field trips that focus on different aspects of Israeli society. “We take the study outside the Beit Midrash (study hall),” she said.
“Our mission here is to expose the girls to many opinions so they come to the IDF ready to stand up for their point of view,” added Tal.
Almog, a Mechinat Lapidot graduate who showed up in her IDF uniform to visit her teachers and friends, told the Emunah visitors, “At the mechina you get a good basis to meet the rest of the world. I know where I come from and where I’m going.”
World Emunah Chairperson Dina Hahn noted that her group would continue to support Mechinat Lapidot because “with more and more observant girls opting for IDF service, Emunah is committed to providing answers in religious society.”
At the end of the current academic year, Mechinat Lapidot will move into its new home, a short distance away in the neighboring small community of Mitzpe Danny. The 40 younger families who make up the village—which was founded in 1998 and named after Danny Frei, a Ma’ale Michmas resident killed in a terror attack—“believe in our goals and are looking for a project that will help the community expand,” said mechina founder Rikhlin.
A delegation of senior figures in Emunah of America attended World Emunah’s 2017 Leadership Mission in Israel, and represented the U.S. at the movement’s 10th Annual Convention this week. The delegation, which included women from across the country, was led by Karen Spitalnick, National President of Emunah of America, from Great Neck, NY.
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ALTHOUGH THERE are some exceptions, in haredi circles anything to do with service in the Israel Defense Force is taboo. Violent anti-recruitment demonstrations are held every few months in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak. It’s bad enough when male members of the haredi community are called to serve, but when females are called, and are even arrested for failure to respond to the call-up notice, the riots get completely out of hand. It is therefore understandable that the haredi community is furious that Emunah, a national religious women’s organization, has a program called Mechinat Lapidot, which is an innovative preparatory program for religiously observant girls who are planning to do military service rather than civilian National Service. Both are equally important in that they represent a contribution to the state, but there are some Orthodox young women who believe that they can be more effective in the army, and who derive greater satisfaction from being in a security related operation than in a social services environment. Mechnat Lapidot is one of only two programs in Israel providing solutions for a rapidly growing need for emotional support, physical training and preparation, and spiritual reinforcement to young Orthodox women who have chosen this path to serve their country.
Mechinat Lapidot, located in Ma’aleh Michmash, a National Religious community township in the Binyamin region a 15-minute drive from the Jerusalem outer suburb of Pisgat Ze’ev, was recently asked to move after most of the town’s population voted against the program on religious grounds.
Realizing that increasing numbers of young Orthodox women wanted to serve in the army without compromising their religious values, Emunah decided to continue with the program. Mechinat Lapidot will soon be relocated to a site near Ma’aleh Ephraim. The whole issue of religious women serving in the IDF will be one of the subjects for discussion at the 10th World Emunah Convention and Leadership Mission taking place in many parts of Israel from January 24 to February 1.
Emunah projects and programs are mostly of a national nature, with branches all over the country.
Convention participants will visit Mechinat Lapidot in Ma’aleh Michmash before the move to Ma’aleh Ephraim, and will talk to some of the young women who have chosen to enlist.