Machon — Just Like Old Times

At the 70th anniversary reunion of the Machon L’Madrichei Chutz L’Aretz held last week in Jerusalem, one of the panels was entitled “Did the Movement for the Liberation of the Jewish People Attain its Goals?”

machon-reunion
(Credit: Tzvi Gera)

The Machon, as all refer to it, is a continuing Zionist youth movement educational training year course that combines rigorous review and earning of Zionist history and ideology, Hebrew, folk dancing, games, scouting and almost everything else, including group psychology, that a Zionist youth leader requires to succeed.

After 5 months in Jerusalem studying, there follows a hachahara (training period) five months, most usually on a kibbutz or moshav belonging to one’s youth movement although more recently, other forms of communal involvement have become a part of the program.

Here’s a Hadassah graduate, originally from New Jersey recalling what termed “a pivotal moment” in her life:

They gave you all this leadership stuff and told you to serve the Jewish people, and I went back and I took an oath to myself that I would spend the rest of my life serving the Jewish people,” she said.

I participated in the program, Machzor 39, 1966-1967 as a Betar madrich.  In those days, to be to the right and in nationalist Betar was to be in a small minority both objectively as we were never the largest youth movement at that time and especially later and subjectively since most of the educators were center and left-of-center.  Only one of my teachers was to the right, the poet and author Yona David who joined up with Rafi and the Land of Israel movement.

Thus, it was no surprise that the second panel of the day for the benefit of the reunion participants, “Ideological Currents within the Zionist Movement”, was introduced and moderated by Prof. Haim Avni, a centrist Mapai veteran (and a wonderful teacher) with Avrom Burg, Prof. Gidi Shimoni and originally, Muki Tzur, but in his absence, Prof. Shalom Rosenberg.

For the unacquainted, this line-up is left, leftist, lefter and left-out.

Rosenberg, who did not appear in the end, was aligned politically with the Meimad moderate-cum-minimalist religious Zionist party in 1988 through to the early 2000s that had formed a coalition with the Labour Party. Muki Tzur is a Mapai associated kibbutznik, Avni is mainstream Mapai (and I use Mapai because both Avni and Tzur are veteran laborites) and Burg is a bit infamous, declaring his anti-Zionism (and here    ), traveling on the Shabbat (he still wears his kippa) to attend the pre-election Hadash Communist Party conference and suggesting all Israelis obtain foreign passports.

What were the organizers thinking?

Well, they were thinking what they had been taught: Betar, Jabotinsky, Begin and now the Likud and Netanyahu are, well, no longer beyond the pale but for Zionism’s sake, let’s keep them as marginalized as possible; tolerated at best. No center stage (the Likud has been in power since 1977 except for very brief periods) and, basically, no oreal resp[ect or inclusion.

Since the reunion was for those that underwent the Machon experience decades ago, and I don’t think I saw more than 10 former Machoniks under 35, perhaps that panel make-up was normative.

Nevertheless, if that is the thinking of the Machon’s current administrative and pedagogical staff, someone of authority, who can affect the educational content and recommend budget preferences, should be more closely involved in what goes on today in the name of the Machon.

About the Author
Yisrael Medad, currently is a Research Fellow at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem and Deputy Editor of the English Language Anthology of Jabotinsky's Writings. American-born, he and his wife made Aliyah in 1970. He resides in Shiloh since 1981. He was a member of the Betar Youth Movement World Executive and is a volunteer spokesperson for the Yesha Council. He holds a MA in Political Science from the Hebrew University and is active is many Zionist and Jewish projects and initiatives.
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