For the first time, the Israeli Education Ministry is providing funding to sponsor participants at the National Leadership Program (NLP), established and run by Evangelical Christians. A contract for 1 million shekels ($270,000) will allow 3-4,000 Israeli high school students to participate in the NLP’s outdoor experiential Bible-based programs.The funding has been earmarked for Ethiopian students.
The National Leadership Center was opened in 2010 in Ariel, Samaria. More than 47,000 guests including Israel Police, IDF, the security forces, corporate groups and youth from all parts of Israel have participated in the programs. According to their website, their mission statement is to “encourage participants to clarify their purpose in life and to learn about the spirit of biblical leadership through personal application of these values in their lives.”
They do this by developing “a personal model in the State of Israel through challenging and experiential training, in order to instill values in the spirit of biblical ethics and to look forward to the future.”
An Education Ministry spokeswoman explained the reasons for sponsoring the programs to Haaretz.
“The ministry runs many diverse leadership programs around the country. The leadership center in Ariel was examined by the ministry because of its uniqueness. As part of the training there, young people meet their peers from other communities and get exposed to the diversity of Israeli society. The emphasis in training will be on youngsters in the Ethiopian community in order to create among them a pool of leaders.”
The NLP is a project of JH Israel, an outgrowth of JH Ranch, a California Christian-based outdoor leadership development center run by Heather and Bruce Johnston. Heather Johnston met Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman in Jerusalem in 1997, leading to a friendship and support for the city. Many Ariel teens started going on a cultural exchange program to JH Ranch and JH Ranch teens went to Ariel where they experienced the religious Jewish lifestyle of the community. In 2006, the Johnstons suggested to Nachman that a similar facility for Israeli youth could be built in Ariel. In 2008, representatives from the Ministry of Education visited the California ranch to sign an agreement to develop the curriculum, and in 2009, permits to build were issued, despite a freeze on all new construction in Judea and Samaria.
The facility was based on the close personal friendship between Nachman and the Johnstons. Ron Nachman passed away five years ago and is buried on the grounds of the facility. Heather Johnston gave a eulogy at his funeral.