Derech Eretz Leadership Programme
The period of time between high school graduation and enlistment in the army is a critical stage for Israeli young people. Yong leadership programmes are crucial in helping youngsters crystallise life-shaping decisions and forge their identities. However, such programmes are almost exclusively geared to either upper-middle-class young people or those considered to be at risk.
Established in 2011 by Avi Cohen and Yonatan Kishinovsky, Derech Eretz is a six-month gap year programme that was set up to provide a programme for underprivileged youth.
The programme was designed to facilitate social mobility by encouraging individuals’ initiative, pioneering spirit and their desire to volunteer. Derech Eretz encourages participants to take responsibility for their lives – helping to make their life meaningful, whilst laying the groundwork for a for personal fulfilment, success, and giving to the community. Operating from campuses in the Negev, Derech Eretz also hopes to engage and inspire their participants to take up the next great pioneering mission of settling and developing the Negev.
Derech Eretz began with only 23 participants on a small campus in Nitzana. Since then this programme has flourished and with the support of JNF UK now has 220 young people enrolled across four additional campuses in the Negev, in Arad, Kmehin, Ashalim and Revivim.
Pillars of the programme include leadership training, classroom studies, Jewish and Israeli identity learnings, countrywide hikes and trips, community service and volunteering. The programme has expanded to guide and assist these young leaders after their army service as well.