The Beren-Machanaim hesder yeshiva, located on the Israel Henry Beren Campus, enables post-high school students to combine intensive Torah study with full service in the Israel Defense Forces. However, one of the things that sets Machanaim apart from other hesder yeshivas is its unique focus on melding secular knowledge with Jewish study and observance, so that rather than being forced to straddle two very distinct worlds, students are encouraged to develop a language and worldview which incorporates both. For Machanaim students and soldiers, Torah study informs life and life informs Torah study.
This unique outlook is implied in the yeshiva’s name: in Genesis Chapter 32, Yaakov wrestles with an unknown assailant – identified either as an angel of God or as Yaakov himself – until the break of dawn. Yaakov emerges from the scuffle at Machanaim slightly wounded, but also transformed, empowered, a new man. He is even granted a new title – Yisrael – and a new mission, to be the father of the Jewish nation. The Biblical Machanaim incident demonstrates how a struggle between clashing values can often be a redeeming experience, resulting in a more mature, refined ideal. It is on the cornerstone of this philosophy that Machanaim was founded – to embrace contemporary challenges as a manner of growth, rather than shying away from them.
Full IDF Service: Going a Step Further
In an Israeli academic institution which stresses active engagement with the world, service to the State of Israel will naturally be included. But the fully synthesized worldview of Yeshivat Machanaim goes a step further; students at Machanaim are strongly encouraged by their rabbis and mentors to contribute to the State of Israel by performing a full three years of military service. During the course of their active service (mainly in the elite Golani and Nachal combat units) Machanaim soldiers receive regular visits from Machanaim faculty members, who teach classes on base or in the field and provide counseling and support.
A Unique Curriculum Training Unique Leaders
The unique Machanaim philosophy has catalyzed the creation of a distinctive Torah study curriculum. Lectures in Bible and Talmud draw upon classical Jewish sources – as well as poetry, economics, pop culture and decisions of the Supreme Court. Classes are offered in traditional yeshiva subjects alongside diverse courses such as Bibliotherapy, Political Science, History, Psychology, Gender Studies and Tai Chi, many of which are taught by university professors through the Robert M. Beren College. Students are challenged to extract lessons from the text, apply them to contemporary concerns and implement them throughout society at large, thus strengthening the Jewish nation in its homeland.
Students who return to Machanaim after their active military service take part in an academic program which enables them to complement their yeshiva studies with a degree in Education through courses both on campus and at Herzog – another unique facet of the yeshiva.