What is Kol Ami?
Kol Ami - Jewish Peoplehood Leadership Academy, now entering its eigth year, is a six month Mehina Kdam Tzvait (pre-army preparation program) for school leavers from Israel and abroad.
The program, which is run by the Jewish Agency and works with MASA, operates from the end of August until the end of February. It is approved by the Ministry of Education and the IDF and is part of the Mechinot Ofek network of mechinot.
What are the goals of the program?
Develop Jewish Peoplehood
Improve Public Diplomacy
Love of the Land
Enhancing Jewish Zionist
Preparation for the Next Step (IDF, College etc.)
Where is Kol Ami based?
Kol Ami has five branches around the country. (Participants give their preference for which location they would like to attend before starting the Mehina however the staff take the final decision). Locations are subject to change.
1. Kiriat Yearim - Jewish Agency youth village twenty minutes from Jerusalem
2. Kiriat Anavim - Kibbutz twenty minutes from Jerusalem
3. Kibbutz Bahan - Kibbutz thirty minutes from Netanya
4. Carmiel - Situated inside the Carmiel Children's Village.
5. Migdal Oz - Partnership with Bnei Akiva Olami
What do you do on Kol Ami?
Studying: The regular weekly schedule is filled with classes on Zionism, Jewish history, philosophy, Hebrew, politics, and Israel advocacy. There are also classes on Talmud, Gender, group dynamics and presentation skills.
Committees: Much of the responsibility for day to day operation of each branch is given to the participants, who choose which committee they want to join at the beginning of the program. Each committee, accompanied by a staff member, has a number of events to plan and responsibilities throughout the course of the six months.
Committees include: Shabbat and culture, Army preparation, Tiyulim (trips), PR, recruitment, community service, education and management.
Seminars and trips: The six months are punctuated by regular three-six day seminars and trips around the country. Participants help plan and run many aspects of each trip including finding accommodation, building educational elements, cooking, navigating and arranging guest speakers.
Seminars include: Navigation week, Judea and Samaria week, Streams of Judaism week, Jewish Peoplehood Seminar, Army preparation week, Desert trip and Chovek Israel (final two-week trip from North to South of Israel planned entirely by participants).
Community Service: In each branch there are between one to two days of volunteering every week. Placements have included teaching English, mentoring, agricultural work, retirement homes, kindergartens and visiting hospitals.
There are different options in each branch. For example, the municipality of Tiberias specifically requested that Kol Ami participants volunteer in as many schools as possible teaching and mentoring English classes. The municipality has a very strong connection to Kol Ami and regards the participants as potential role models for the young people of Tiberias.
Army Preparation: A major goal of the program is to ensure that those participants going into the IDF have as meaningful a service as possible. Therefore, there are classes and activities regarding a wide range of subjects concerning army service including ethics, leadership and structure of the IDF.
Three times a week there are physical training classes for all participants. Classes are run by professionals as well as at least one class a week run by participants.
All participants also take part in two 10km runs throughout the program for which they train beforehand.
Where do participants come from?
There are three main groups on the program:
Israelis enrolling in the army the following March.
Participants from abroad who are either taking a gap year, becoming "lone soldiers" or are olim chadashim.
Australians participating in the IBC (Israel By Choice) gap year program who have the option to spend the final three months of their ten month program on Kol Ami. These participants return to Australia in December, half way through the six months.
Each location has a maximum of 40 participants. Around two thirds are Israeli and the remainder are from abroad.
What language is the program in?
The program is split into two three month sections. The first three months of the program are entirely in English and the second three months are entirely in Hebrew.
There may be an option in the future for one branch of the program to remain in English for the duration of the six months depending on the needs of those joining from abroad.
There is an option for Hebrew tuition for English speakers throughout the program in order to ensure they are at a suitable level once the program switches to Hebrew.
Where do you live and eat?
Participants will be in rooms of between three to five with en-suite bathroom and toilets.
All meals are eaten communally and usually breakfast and dinner are prepared by the participants. Lunch is usually eaten in the kibbutz/youth village dining hall or catered lunch is brought in.
Kashrut is kept strictly on all of the branches and all activities.
What is the religious observance like on Kol Ami?:
Participants are both observant and secular. For many of them this provides a unique forum to become acquainted with a part of the population they have not previously come into contact with.
Shabbat observance is kept in all public spaces. Kabbalat Shabbat takes place with the whole group and those who wish to go to services are able to find many synagogues in walking distance.
What is the price of the program?:
US$11,000, before MASA scholarship and grant. Price includes room, board, tuition and activities during program time.
Is there somewhere else I can get more information?