I've always understood kids needing the gap year to find themselves, and figure out what they want to do before going into uni/the army -- it's just always been a mystery to me why the Israeli Government invests thousands of shekels each year in these programs. Many Israeli kids defer the army, pay a subsidized fee, and take off a year.
Now that my daughter Temira is in Mechina for the army in her gap year, I finally get it. Yes, she has been in the Israeli school system since we made Aliyah, but now she is learning through experience:
They learn about the conflict in Israel thoroughly and from the beginning. The reasoning is, if you don't know all of the facts, you can't give an opinion on it.
They visit various communities across Israel that make an environmental impact.
They were thrown into the wild for four days without technology, and had to survive and navigate as a group.
They spent a week learning "the faces of Jerusalem" - personally spending time with the many different kinds of people who make up and live in Jerusalem.
They had a Politics Week. They have to learn soft skills, prepare, teach, and deliver presentations. They have organized their own programs. They have spent time volunteering.
They have worked on conflict resolution among their group and personal community.
It has only been three months, but now I understand why the government prioritizes this year for our children: this experience has already transformed my daughter.