News Highlights October 2012
The Second 100 years
After many years of declining numbers Israel's kibbutz movement is staging a revival, with many potential members wanting to join the unique form of collective living.
The total kibbutz population of about 143,000 is the highest in its 102-year history. More people are now joining kibbutzim than leaving and the addition of working-age adults and young children is helping to redress the balance of an ageing population.
Most kibbutzim have implemented reforms so as to become commercially viable. Privatization with differential incomes and home ownership has increased the attractiveness to newcomers reluctant to commit to pure communal principles.
Increasing numbers of families are attracted to kibbutz living by the quality of education, environment, space and security. The kibbutz enterprises also provide thousands of job opportunities.
Under a new agreement, dairy farming will become more efficient and production per unit will reach a minimum of 700 thousand liters per 70 dairy cows. The purpose of the agreement is to reduce the cost of milk production by dairy efficiency, so that eventually the prices of final consumer dairy products will be reduced.
Back in 1952 Ben Gurion asked a dairy worker to get permission from his kibbutz to take up the position of Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Defense. The dairy worker was just 29 years old but Ben Gurion believed that he was important for the country. The worker approached his kibbutz and a vote was held at a general meeting whether or not to allow a kibbutz member to work outside the kibbutz. That was the way the kibbutzim operated in those days.The members of Alumot voted in favor and the dairy worker, Shimon Peres, was granted leave to serve the country as Deputy Director General of Defense. Shimon Peres was instrumental in building Israel's Defense industry including its nuclear capacity. He also served in numerous ministerial posts including that of Prime Minister. He is of course Israel's current President.
The kibbutzim formed the backbone of the country before Israel gained independence in 1948 and during the first few years after independence. There was an established infrastructure in place because of the kibbutzim and many notable persons from kibbutzim took part in the political and defense organizations as the new state came into being. The kibbutzim were also the bread basket of Israel providing a large percentage of the country's food needs. Kibbutz enterprises diversified over the years and now cover almost every type of business and account for about 8% of Israel's economy.
Education Achievements in Israel
44% of Jews leave high school with the minimum academic requirements needed to go on to higher education while only 22% of Arab students do.
The Hebrew University honored the incoming freshman who received the highest grade on the psychometric entrance exam. The winner was Hamza Morad an Arab-Muslim from Bu’eine Nujeidat.
Unfortunately Morad is far from representative of the Arab population as a whole. Though Arabs make up about a fifth of the total Israeli population – and among college age Israelis, they probably make up even more due to higher-than-average fertility rates – only 11 percent end up enrolling in one of the institutes for higher education, according to the Council for Higher Education (CHE).
One positive step that this government has already taken is to create a five-year NIS 300 million program, launched last year, that aims to reduce the gaps between Jewish and Arab Israelis.
Institutions of higher learning will receive funding to set up workshops to improve Arab students’ Hebrew and provide other forms of academic support. Universities and colleges will also be required to come up with plans for recruiting more Arab students.
However, while the five-year program is a step in the right direction, more needs to be done to narrow the gaps in academic achievement that begin at the primary school level. According to a 2003 study conducted in the United Kingdom, students who were failing school by age 11 had only a 25% chance of meeting the standard at age 14, and those failing at 14 had only a 6% chance of meeting high school graduation requirements. Other studies have shown that by age seven, children who score in the top 20% in math and literacy tests are already twice as likely to complete a university degree as children in the bottom 20%.
Arab students consistently score lower than Jewish students on exams such as the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). On the last Meitzav – a Hebrew acronym for School Efficiency and Growth Index – the average Jewish eighth-grader received a math score that was 46 points higher than the average Arab student.
The gap between high and low socioeconomic strata within the Jewish population is even higher than the gap between the average Arab student and the average Jewish student. For instance, Jewish students from the highest socioeconomic group received a math score that was 84 points higher than the poorest Jewish group’s. And the gaps between rich and poor Jews were wider than the gaps between Arabs and Jews in English and science as well. In fact, after adjusting for socioeconomic differences, it could be that there is no significant gap in academic achievement between Jews and Arabs.
But this does not explain why Arab schools are consistently subject to discrimination when it comes to government funding. Over the past decade, the Education Ministry funded on average 47.2 hours of weekly teaching hours for the weakest Arab schools, compared to 72.2 hours for national religious schools and 56.2 hours for secular Jewish schools.
True, numerous studies have shown that extra funding does not necessarily translate into academic improvement. But it does reveal government preferences.
If the government is sincerely interested in increasing the number of Arab students who go on to university and college and, as a result, equipping them to integrate better into the labor force, resources and reforms – particularly schemes that attract higher-quality teachers – must focus on primary education. While it is important to provide aid to Arab high school graduates and first-year university students, tens of thousands of Arab children never even graduate from high school – let alone enter university – due, in part, to substandard elementary school education.
Few students – whether Arab or Jewish – will score as high as Morad did on the psychometric exam. But improving elementary school education can have a crucial impact on the academic destinies of thousands of children. That’s where government efforts should be focused.
Gov’t Approves More Indian Aliya
This is the first group of tribal people from India and Burma to make aliya in five years. Another 7,000 left in India wish to come to Israel.
The government recently passed a resolution to resume immigration of a tribal group from India and Burma who descend from the tribe of Menashe, one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.
The Bnei Menashe’s Jewish roots had been recognized in 2005 by Rabbi Shlomo Amar who had ruled that they must, however, undergo conversion to be recognized as full Jews.
Their aliya has since then been taken under the wing of the Shavei Israel organization, which aims at “helping descendants of Jews reconnect with the people and State of Israel” and facilitate their aliya.
Michael Freund, chairman and founder of Shavei Israel, said he had been lobbying the Netanyahu government on the issue for a few years, as he had in the past worked as an adviser to the prime minister.
Freund is grateful for the resolution, which was adopted unanimously by the cabinet and is to allow Shavei Israel to fly a first group of 275 Bnei Menashe to the country.
“This will be the first group we are bringing in five years,” he told The Jerusalem Post.
Shavei Israel is expected to cover the cost of the initiative, which includes airfare and part of the cost of the group’s initial stay in the country. The organization is also planning on opening a private absorption center where the olim will spend their first few months in Israel.
During that time, they will have to undergo official conversion supervised by the rabbinical authorities, in addition to completing a variety of bureaucratic processes – following which they can be granted Israeli citizenship and receive the status of olim. Freund explained that his organization does not receive government funding but relies on private donations from American and European Jewish philanthropists and also from the International Christian Embassy.
“The Bnei Menashe are a blessing to Israel and the Jewish people,” “They work hard, support themselves and their families, serve in the IDF and raise beautiful Jewish children.”
The “return” of the Bnei Menashe to Israel is a “miracle of biblical and historic proportions.”
The first group of 275 individuals is expected to arrive to Israel next month. Shavei Israel’s centers in India are preparing them for the move.
This includes teaching them Hebrew and familiarizing them with Jewish traditions and life in the state.
Over the past 15 years, Shavei Israel has brought about 1,700 Bnei Menashe home, but according to the organization, another 7,000 of them are left in India and wish to make aliya
Preparation for Earthquakes
The country’s largest-scale ever drills were held to prepare us for a mega-quake.
Alarms were sent out to cellphones and TV and radio broadcasts were interrupted.
Israel straddles a major geological fault line – the Afro-Syrian rift – where two restless tectonic plates rub against each other. The Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley are the physical results of that rift in our country.
Geologists warn us to expect a major quake (above 7 on the Richter Scale) sometime within 50 years. It can happen any day or not for decades to come. If the quake proves to be of a particularly destructive magnitude or in a lethally nearby location, no part of the country would be safe.
Major earthquakes are approximately a once-in-a-millennium phenomenon here and experts judge we are due one soon. We are tremendously more densely populated than in 1033, when the last great seism struck this country. That makes us tremendously more vulnerable, our hi-tech lifestyle notwithstanding. Pretending we have time will not make us safer.
There are several minor earth quakes in Israel each year and a one caused plenty of damage in Eilat about ten years ago when many hotels had to be repaired and some even rebuilt. Objects moving and buildings shaking are quite common occurrences in Israel where earthquakes measuring up to 5.6 are not uncommon.
A state-sponsored proposes to buttress and expand older apartment houses at no cost to the residents, while the contractors who do the job are compensated by being granted the right to construct additional floors and sell off the new flats. There is considerable enticement here to homeowners. Besides increased safety, they are offered upgrades and substantial renovations – seemingly for free.
The greatest hazards exist for towns closest to the rift such as Tiberias, Beit She’an, Hatzor Haglilit or Kiryat Shmona aren’t prime real estate.
Prof. David Yankelevsky of the Technion’s Civil Engineering Faculty charges that the government plan is not a plan at all. It provides no guidelines on how to quake-proof buildings, on which buildings should be reinforced, etc.” Moreover, most folks cannot assess the sturdiness of their homes. Many are loath to rely on the opinions of contractors with vested interests.
Urgently needed is a publicly-financed, disinterested, broad and universally available framework that would objectively survey all pre-1980 buildings and suggest to residents what can plausibly be done to quake-proof them.
Jerusalem Honors Winston Churchill
It may have been more than 64 years since the British Mandate ended, but at Jerusalem’s Mishkenot Shaananim on Sunday, the predominant language was English, and the accents were decidedly British.
The occasion was the unveiling of a bust of multi-talented British statesman Sir Winston Churchill.
Present for the occasion were great grandson Lt. Randolph Churchill and wife Catherine, in Israel for the first time and mightily impressed by what they saw, the fourth generation of the Churchill family to visit since before the establishment of the state.
Churchill’s grandfather Randolph had laid the foundations for the Churchill Auditorium at the Technion, and his father, Winston Churchill – who like his namesake, Sir Winston, was a famous journalist – covered the Six Day War.
Sir Winston’s youngest daughter, Baroness Mary Soames, was a frequent visitor to Israel.
According to Uri Dromi, the director general of Mishkenot Shaananim, there was no more appropriate place in Israel for a bust of Sir Winston than the first Jewish neighborhood built outside the walls of the old city at the initiative of Sir Moses Montefiore, who also secured financial support for the project.
The bust, cast from an original by sculptor Oscar Nemon – who found sanctuary in Britain after fleeing Nazi Germany – was the brainchild of Labor MK Isaac Herzog and of Anthony Rosenfelder, a trustee of the Jerusalem Foundation.
They were both inspired by the book Churchill and the Jews written by Winston Churchill’s biographer, the noted historian Sir Martin Gilbert.
On the morning prior to the ceremony, Randolph Churchill received a message from Lady Esther Gilbert telling him how thrilled she and her husband were to have Jerusalem as a permanent home for Winston Churchill’s bust, because he had been such a steadfast supporter of the Zionist cause.
Churchill had saved Britain from slavery and in doing so also saved its neighbors in other countries, and was an inspiration for the welfare of mankind.
British Ambassador Matthew Gould, speaking both as Her Majesty’s representative in Israel and as a proud member of the Jewish community of Britain, said that it was “absolutely right” that the memory of Winston Churchill be honored in Jerusalem, when he stood so firmly for the Jewish people and the Jewish homeland.
“He stood up for the rights of the Jewish people to a Jewish homeland long before it became fashionable – if it was ever fashionable,” said Gould, who noted Churchill’s passionate stand against anti-Semitism.
Gould was also critical of the fact that Churchill has not been honored sufficiently in Israel, that his story is not told enough, and that his contribution to the Zionist enterprise is not sufficiently well known.
David Ben-Gurion wrote to him: “Like so many others in all parts of the globe, I regard you as the greatest Englishman in your country’s history, and the greatest statesman of our time, as the man whose courage, wisdom and foresight saved his country.”
Randolph Churchill spoke of the two intensive days that he and his wife had spent in “beautiful” Jerusalem, and of how enamored they were with the culture of the city, especially by what they had seen in the Israel Museum. They had also spent a day in the Dead Sea area.
Churchill gave a brief resume of his family’s history, pointing out that Sir Winston’s father Sir Randolph had raised his many children in famine- torn Dublin where he and his wife had helped relieve the hunger of the starving masses.
Unlike other nobility of the day Randolph and Lady Churchill did not harbor any anti-Semitic feelings.
On the contrary they had many Jewish friends, and Churchill frequently spoke out against anti-Semitism, so it was not surprising that his grandfather, Winston was so well-disposed, not only to Jews but also to people in dire economic straits.
“He was a lifelong friend of the Jewish people and the Zionist cause,” said his great-grandson.
The mayor observed that one of the reasons Churchill was so greatly admired by Israelis and Jews everywhere was his stubbornness and his amazing ability to stand up for what he believed in.
Jubran’s Silent Approach to Music
Any solo recital presents challenges, as the artist has no other instrumentalists to hide behind, or feed off, but a solo oud performance is probably one of the hardest things to bring off.
“That’s true,” admits Joubran. “For a start, traditionally, the oud is not a concert instrument at all. You generally have a vocalist performing with an oud player. And there is almost no repertoire available for solo oud. The things people play on the oud are works that are designed to be played on all sorts of instruments, but not specifically for the oud.”
The 42-year-old studied western classical music in Moscow with celebrated Soviet composer Alfred Schnittke, and also studied composition and conducting in Berlin. In 2004 he was awarded the Prime Minister’s prize for composition. With that background, perhaps it is not surprising that, despite his Arabic roots, Jubran did not imbibe Arabic music as a fledgling artist.
“I came to Arabic music through European classical music,” declares Joubran. “I also played piano and violin, and I am also a classical composer. So you could say I bring a lot of cultural and musical baggage to the way I play oud.”
“Silence stimulates a desire to think and to use the imagination. It leaves space for interpretation. That’s an inherent part of music. Music doesn’t say things, per se, and doesn’t explain things. Music is only a trigger which permeates and makes you think and feel.”
Jubran says his checkered musical training comes across in his readings of Arabic music.
“You can feel that, in terms of my technique, and on a basic physical level, and also with regard to my mental approach to what I play, and the socio-musical context.”
It is also very much a matter of marrying the very different musical worlds he has studied.
“You lose something of each kind of music, but you also add to each one,” he muses. “I am not a classical player in the strict European sense – particularly when I play oud – but I am also not exactly a basic folk-oriented traditional oud player either.
When it comes to exploring different musical domains, if you’re playing oud you’ve already got something of a head start. It can sound like a pure traditional Arabic instrument, but it can also take on the sounds, textures and energies of flamenco guitar, and several other disciplines.
“I combine two approaches in my music, but there is nothing technical about that,” states Jubran. “But I don’t piece things together like a jigsaw puzzle. I don’t think in terms of ‘let’s taking a work by Mozart and see how I can make it sound Arabic on oud.’ That’s not my way. These things, these worlds, flow through me naturally. They are a part of me, as a person and as an artist.”
“In my experience, the audience likes what I do, and the way I present the music as it is. You could call it a kind of odyssey, which we take together.”
“I play everything with everyone,” he declares. “I also work with non-musicians, like video artists and dancers. We live in what they call a post-modern world and I go along with that. I don’t confine myself to a concept of concert music, or what performing on a stage means, or what it means to play for an audience. That helps to keep me fresh and to maintain an interest in what I am doing. I think that comes across in what I do.”
Jubran also spread his cultural wings as part of the multinational West-Eastern Divan Orchestra youth ensemble based in Seville, Spain, under the aegis of Daniel Barenboim, but says he prefers to ply his trade where – for him – the heart is.
“My understanding of that mindset is that Jews and Arabs don’t have to meet at Camp David, in very sterile conditions, and play Beethoven. I think it should happen here, where we fight and where we live together, in the actual sociopolitical environment. And we should play music that comes from our culture and listens to its surroundings. That’s where I come from.”
Call to Fight Anti-Israel Church Practices
Christian, Jewish leaders focus on countering anti-Israel sentiment within the large Protestant churches around the world.
The Bnei Brit organization along with The Ecumenical Theological Research Fraternity in Israel kicked off a joint conference focused on countering anti-Israel sentiment within the large Protestant churches around the world. According to Alan Schneider, director of the Bnai Brith World Center in Jerusalem, protestant churches have over the past two decades become increasingly aligned against Israel.
This trend was forcefully underlined in October when 15 senior leaders of mainline Protestant churches in America sent a letter to Congress last month calling for an investigation and possible suspension of US military aid to Israel.
The letter led several Jewish organizations to pull out of an annual Christian-Jewish dialogue conference. “This letter broke the trust of Jewish organizations involved in interfaith dialogue,” Schneider said. “The purpose of this current consultation is to provide the opportunity for representatives of protestant churches who are supportive of Israel to meet similar people from other countries and denominations.
“They are often lone voices in their churches who have taken personal initiatives to counter this wave of anti-Israel agitation, and so we hope that this will be the beginning of ongoing contact and cooperation among the participants.” More than twenty Christian and Jewish leaders from around the world are participating in the four-day conference, which will seek to formulate a strategy for future work to reverse the hostile attitude of many mainline protestant churches to Israel, the organizers said.
Speaking at the opening of the conference on Monday night in Maale HaHamisha, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, founder of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation, said that the doctrine of “replacement theology” was a large factor in ongoing Christian hostility to the Jewish State. Replacement theology is the notion that the Christian Church became the “new Israel” and that God’s promises to the people of Israel were transferred to Christianity.
“As long as you believe in replacement theology and that the Christians inherited the Jews and that the Jews no longer stand in covenantal relationship to God, then we have no right to be in Israel and you join our enemies,” Riskin said. “Our roots in Israel are 4,000 years old. We did not occupy anyone’s land. There has been an unbroken chain of Jewish life in Jerusalem, Hebron, and Safed for 4,000 years,” the rabbi continued. In response, Rev. Dr. Paul Wilkinson from the UK echoed Riskin’s sentiments, criticizing the mainline churches for never having fully dissociated themselves from replacement theology.
According to Wilkinson, a propaganda campaign is being waged by the Palestinian Authority, the Islamic world and by the Protestant church including the Evangelical church, “propagating replacement theology and its new manifestations.”
“The big lie is Christian Palestinianism, the anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian crusade going on in the church today that will say from one corner of its mouth ‘we love the Jewish people’ and from the other corner of its mouth ‘we hate Israel.’ That is not possible. You cannot love the Jewish people and hate Israel,” Wilkinson declared.
The capacity to make peace depends on changing perceptions – including the national narratives we tell ourselves and our peoples. The fallout from Abbas’s Channel 2 interview is yet another dismal indicator that the Palestinian people have yet to be prepared by their leadership for such a change.
In an interview last week with Channel 2’s Udi Segal, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas presented a surprisingly moderate stance vis-à-vis Palestinians’ “right of return.”
Though he clarified that the issue would have to be settled in negotiations, Abbas admitted that he personally had no “right” to return permanently to his birthplace in Safed.
“Palestine now for me is the 1967, borders, with east Jerusalem as its capital,” he said. “This is now and forever.... This is Palestine for me. I am a refugee, but I am living in Ramallah.”
Abbas even went on to reject references in official Palestinian television to places such as Acre, Ramle and Jaffa – all cities well within sovereign Israel – as “Palestine,” and added, “I believe that the West Bank and Gaza is Palestine and the other parts are Israel.”
Abbas’s comments for Channel 2 were reminiscent of statements the PA president purportedly made during negotiations in 2008 with then-prime minister Ehud Olmert and then-foreign minister Tzipi Livni.
According to the “PaliLeaks” documents apparently leaked by the Palestinian Negotiation Support Unit to Al Jazeera and The Guardian Abbas admitted that “on numbers of refugees, it is illogical to ask Israel to take 5 million, or even 1 million – that would mean the end of Israel.”
Both the Channel 2 interview and the PaliLeaks documents seemed to reveal a refreshing pragmatism and willingness to compromise among the Palestinian leadership.
One of the major obstacles to peace – the issue of the Palestinian insistence on the “right of return” for millions of “refugees” – appeared to be eminently soluble.
Unfortunately, as in the aftermath of the PaliLeaks revelations, high-ranking Palestinian officials rushed to “clarify” Abbas’s comments, revealing once again the yawning divide that continues to separate our two peoples.
Rather than using Abbas’s comments on the “right of return” as an opportunity to show the world that Palestinians are willing to show flexibility on a maximalist demand that would mean the end of Israel as a state with a Jewish majority, the official PA reaction was the complete opposite.
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for Abbas, responding to sharp criticism of the PA president on the Palestinian street, reiterated Palestinian intransigence on the refugee issue.
“The position of the Palestinian leadership remains fixed,” Abu Rudaineh said. “The refugees and the right of return are among the final-status issues that will be negotiated with the Israelis.” He went on to say that Abbas’s interview was nothing more than a tactical move aimed at “affecting Israeli public opinion.”
Even if we are to take Abbas’s comments at face value and believe that he and others in the PA are responsible leaders sincerely interested in working toward a sovereign Palestinian state living in peace alongside the Jewish state of Israel, this is not enough. Abbas is paying for his own and his leadership’s insistence on saying one thing in public and something else altogether behind closed doors or in an interview aimed at the Israel public.
When speaking to the Palestinians, the Abbas-led PA has consistently marginalized or outright denied the Jewish people’s historic, religious and cultural ties to the Land of Israel. It has glorified terrorists who have massacred Israelis, while depicting the Jews of Israel as evil and rapacious.
They could and should have adjusted the public messages to the Palestinian people to reflect the types of sane and realistic statements made to Channel 2 or behind closed doors in negotiations with Israel.
The capacity to make peace depends on changing perceptions – including the national narratives we tell ourselves and our peoples. The fallout from Abbas’s Channel 2 interview is yet another dismal indicator that the Palestinian people have yet to be prepared by their leadership for such a change.
High School in Israel for Overseas Pupils
The Naale Elite Academy is a unique three-year program for Jewish teenagers who choose to come to Israel to complete high school with an Israeli matriculation certificate, which is accepted internationally.
The last year of California teenager, Aviv Gadi’s schooling has literally changed her life. After spending her primary school years at a Jewish day school and first few years of high school at a public school in Los Angeles, she was offered an opportunity of a lifetime – a scholarship to the Naale Elite Academy – and she jumped at the chance. Next year, she will enter 11th grade at a boarding school with a difference – it’s in Israel.
A boarding school experience with a difference, Naale enables young Jews to study at an exclusive, top quality academy while learning to be independent, self- sufficient and resilient – in the international melting pot that is Israel.
The program was established in 1992 as a joint initiative of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Education. Its mission is to enable Jewish high school students worldwide to study and to finish high-school in Israel
Since the program launched, more than 20,000 select high school students from the United States, Europe, Former Soviet Union, South America, Germany, Poland and South Africa, among others, have been given the opportunity to fulfill their dream of attending high school in Israel through the program, a unique three-year scholarship program co-funded by the State of Israel (the Israeli Ministry of Education) and the Jewish Agency for Israel.
Naale Elite Academy has four schools that cater to English-speakers from Western countries. These range from co-educational (Mosenson Youth Village, Hod Hasharon) and religious Orthodox (Yeshivat Shaalvim, Nof Ayalon near Modi’in for boys and Ulpanat Amana in Kfar Saba for girls) to religious Haredi (Beit Chana in Tsfat).
Every potential student has to go through a series of interviews. Besides the interviews, two tests are required before accepting candidates – one to determine their academic level in Math, English and Hebrew, and a second to determine their maturity (and thus their ability to live away from home), which requires psychological testing.
All students coming from Western countries must be proficient in English, even those from non-English-speaking countries. While students are initially taught in English, Hebrew is gradually integrated into the classroom. By the time the students reach the 11th grade, they are being taught, tested, asked to write reports and converse in Hebrew exclusively.
Students graduate with one of the top high school educations in the world in a country that is known for its entrepreneurial success despite its young age. But more importantly, they have also learnt to manage their time, take care of their own finances, look after themselves in a challenging environment without their parents and become independent – preparing them for the world in a way that no other regular high school can achieve.
“Compare 18-year-olds who have just graduated after living at home and having their parents around throughout their high school, taking care of them and looking after them, to the graduates at Naale who have experienced the past three years on their own in another country, managing their own time, their own money, their own lives,” says Chaim Meyers, coordinator of the Naale Elite Academy program at Mosenson.
“They’re far more independent, more mature, and able to control their own lives. And their parents feel the same thing. They see the differences in their children. Even after one year, many of the parents say they don’t know their child – and this is meant in a positive way,” he says.
High school is a tough time for teenagers, especially the last three years working towards matriculation. Naale Elite Academy believes in offering its students every possible type of support it can provide, including a full-time house mother, full-time counselor, and a nurse, who live on campus, a social worker and a psychologist who are available whenever they are needed, full academic support, and financial assistance.
“The best part is being independent, knowing you’re your own person,” says Gadi. “For me, it’s discovering I can fend for myself and that ‘Mommy and Daddy’ don’t always have to be there for you. Even at ages 15, 16, 17, you can make your own choices – well, not completely because you have counselors around you all the time, but you need to make mistakes to know what you’re doing wrong.”
Naale Elite Academy is a microcosm of Israeli society, a real melting pot of people from different countries, cultures and outlooks. There are about 800 students in the school; 600 day students who live in the Hod Hasharon area, and about 200 boarding school students. From the boarding school students, 50% are English-speaking (foreign) students and 50% Israelis. And this is what Lorine Chajet from Germany finds very exciting.
“I think the best thing for everyone here is that we have met so many new people from all over the world. In no other place could we have met people like this. My friends are from the Philippines, America, Canada, Australia, South Africa… everywhere. I love living here, being a part of Israel. It’s fun. You can’t even compare it. I feel more comfortable being Jewish here.”
Every scholarship comprises a full airfare for the flight to school at the beginning of the 10th grade year, full room and board, free tuition, off-campus travel expenses, tiyulim (special trips), a budget for maintaining telephone contact with family, a monthly stipend and laundry service. There is also an option of two to three years free tuition at an Israeli university, before or after the army. The only cost involved is a one-time $500 registration fee.
All students are admitted to the country on an extended tourist’s visa and need not make an Aliyah commitment of any kind. Students can, however, choose to make Aliyah when they reach the appropriate age.
Statistically, at the end of 10th grade, about 20% to 30% of the students decide to return to their home countries. Of those students that stay on in 11th grade, 99% of them continue to 12th grade. And of the students who finish 12th grade, about 85% of graduates stay in Israel and go to the army or university. Twelfth grade is when they decide they either want to stay and build a life in Israel or they don’t see their future in the country.
“The interesting part is that of the 15% that go home after graduating, more than 50% of them return to Israel within a year. After being here for three years, they develop an idea of how it’s going to be when they get back to their home countries. But when they go back, their experience is totally different from their perceptions. Suddenly their friends and their lives there seem so different…”
The students must live in the dormitory during the school week, but may choose to visit family and friends on the weekends. Arrangements are made for those students who do not have family with whom to spend Shabbat and holidays. A bilingual host family from the surrounding communities is assigned to all Elite Academy students to provide them with moral support and home-away-from-home hospitality.
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