I think in general, people outside of Israel struggle to understand what a mechina is. Year after year, Australians come back with only good things to say about mechina, however when posing them the relatively simple question; "what was so good about it?" The response almost every time is, "I just can't explain, you have to do it," which ends up leaving me more confused and with less of an understanding.
After lots of personal conversations and still not much clarity, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to do mechina because hey, everyone loves it.. surely I will too? Upon reflection, I think if I'd put mechina down to one word it would be, experience; defined as an event or occurrence which leaves an impression on someone.
"If you have never tasted a bad apple, you would never appreciate a good apple. Because you have to experience life, to understand life."
I don't speak for all but I think a lot of us are brought up with a quite narrow mindset, whether it be from the home or school and it makes sense because parents/teachers want the best for us. However, to be on a program with chanichim from different backgrounds joining together to listen to lectures from all walks of life, be it left wing to right wing, Israeli to Palestinian, religious to secular; I really think adds to the unique experience Kol Ami offers. We've learnt about things from Alaskan culture, community organisations, entrepreneurship and everything in between, and it emphasises to us that the world is huge and "the more you know the more you realise you don't know."
Gabi talks a lot about the next step and how the mechina is not a 3/6 month experience but a 1/2/5 year experience to keep building on the things we've learnt; so I think the responsibility is on us after the mechina finishes to grasp all the opportunities presented to us whatever they may be to best try and experience life. Above all, the mechina has taught us true life lessons and those are invaluable.
We've had some really special moments on the mechina and felt special things; be it finishing Navigation week by all breaking out singing and dancing, singing with the kibbutz every friday before shabbat or simply the feeling of satisfaction after finishing a good madas. How do you put into words some of these moments or feelings?
However, we've also had some not so great moments, being lost in the middle of the shetach at 2am is not everyone's cup of tea but we look back and laugh with fond memories. How do you explain these experiences to people who have never heard of a mechina before? The question what is so good about mechina isn't such a simple question after all and it remains true that you really have to experience mechina to understand mechina.