Hello, my name is Avraham Chaim Silverstein and I'm from Atlanta Georgia. I attended Jewish day school until the eighth grade followed by a high school of the same nature, Yeshiva Atlanta. During my senior year I got my heart set on going to Israel, to see what it was all about. Many Israel programs came to recruit students but one program stood out for me above the others: Mechinat Hagolan.

The past year in Israel was quite tumultuous for me, full of inspiring achievements and spiritual growth. I experienced one event at Mechinat Hagolan in particular that inspired me to live more powerfully.

The event, known as Survival Week, was the culmination of weeks of physical and mental training. The purpose of that week was to push our limits, as individuals and as a whole unit. Throughout the challenge, obstacles are presented to test the willpower and constitution of the participant. It was one of the most difficult, arduous, and uncomfortable things I have ever done. It was also one of the most rewarding. Survival Week is a long hike with little food and interrupted sleep. Along the journey we were given navigation tests, and to emphasize the importance of these tests, food was taken away if we failed them. For those few days our entire universe was made of hunger, walking and sleep. We didn’t know when we would finish or what lay ahead. All we knew was to put one foot in front of the other, and that it would pass.

Why in the world would anybody knowingly go into a situation like this? The answer lies in the principals of the Mechina. They are Spirituality, leadership and responsibility. In order to fully realize and become a purveyor of these principals a person must be powerfully exposed to them. It is easy to take responsibility on a full nights’ sleep and a belly full of good food. To really become strong in these areas they must be developed in pressure and discomfort. This is very much in line with the Jewish philosophy that the most valuable things are the ones that we must struggle to accomplish.

 After Survival Week was over the Mechina as a whole had become stronger. With this accomplishment under our belts we were able to take on other challenges, knowing with much more honesty, the extent of our limits. The world was now much more approachable and our true boundaries were more understood. I understood, from Survival Week, how great I could be and how much is possible to attain from real effort and perseverance.

This year I made Aliya and came back as an instructor and mentor for the next group of guys. The process was difficult and infinitely valuable. In preparation for the army I am improving my Hebrew skills and pursuing higher levels of Torah study It was in the context of this environment that Survival Week came full circle.

Just a week ago the guys of this year did their very own Survival Week. I was given the privilege to be a guide for their adventure, and to oversee their accomplishments. It was really moving to see those I had been coaching achieve something so great for themselves. I got to see my own struggle on their faces as they pushed through their limits and came out stronger.

This full circle from participant to instructor was made possible by Mechinat Hagolan and its fantastic staff. I am truly thankful for the opportunity to be in this program and wish them many more years to inspire young Jewish men.

Yours sincerely,
Avraham Chaim Silverstein