Starting on August 15, the 5th of Elul, the program is designed to bring young Israelis into a closer dialogue with Israeli culture, Judaism, Western thought, their peers and themselves. Created by the young, dynamic Jewish philosopher Micah Goodman, director of the Ein Prat Academy for Leadership, this magnetic program is creating a sensation among post-army college youth.
Despite the very brief down-time between exams and the start of the next academic year, growing numbers of Israeli students are opting to dive into the intensive Ein Prat Elul environment, challenging themselves and others to go deeper into the roots of Jewish and Zionist thought and classical traditions through Biblical and Talmudic texts and the writings of Maimonides, Shakespeare and Aristotle.
In class (Photo courtey of Ein Prat Academy for Leadership)
Starting just four years ago with a group of 26 students, this year, strictly on word-of-mouth basis, more than 400 Israelis applied.
Fad or phenomenon, the Ein Prat Elul experience is surpassing all expectations and revealing what may be a promising trend at a time when many are bemoaning the loss of Jewish identity among Israel’s young people. Equally popular among religious and secular, Elul provides new perspectives for all.
“We tell our students to leave their preconceptions behind, and come with an open mind,” says Goodman. “Our goal is to open up the dogmatic thinking of the religious participants, to erode the ignorance of the secular participants and to nurture a new kind of Israeliness.”
Experiment in leadership
The 150 students who were ultimately accepted for this year’s program represent the diversity of Israeli social and religious life. Ein Prat established three satellites to accommodate the demand, partnering with Beit Zippori in the Jerusalem Forest, Alma and Hamakom in Tel Aviv, and Midreshet Boker in Sde Boker, in addition to its home-base in Alon near Kfar Adumim, where the students will live, study and engage throughout the month of Elul.
Forming what many believe may well prove to be the next elite corps of future Israeli leaders, the Ein Prat Elul program is worth watching.
According to one graduate, “This is an experiment in teaching leadership without having to actually teach it. It is not only a leadership of charisma or the art of motivating people; but a leadership of accepting responsibility and being open to all sides.”
Another spoke of new doors opening: “Today I dare to be a better person, without cynicism and with tolerance and passion.” Another said, “it was an intensive course in unconditional love – being accepted for who you are without being asked to change.”
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