Israeli American Interactions
A Slice of Life from the Alexander Muss High School in Israel
by Eli Mansbach
“Middle Middle,” screams Asif in Hebrew. We are playing the Israeli students in basketball on what is a typical night for the students who are a part of the Alexander Muss High School Israel semester program. Unfortunately for me, I’m the one guarding Asif, who is easily six inches taller than I and is the best Israeli on the team. Even worse, he gets the ball and starts to drive towards the basket, there’s not much I can do. He drives right around me and scores an easy layup. Frustrated, I curse and get yelled at by my teammates for letting him score. But it’s okay because we beat them 28-20, and afterward we shake hands and go to our respective dorms.
In March, 2012, my former religious school teacher showed up at my door asking me if I wanted more information about an Israel program called The Alexander Muss High School Israel. She told me that AMHSI is an incredible academic program available to high school students in the 10th, 11th and 12th grades. She also told me that AMHSI is not your typical “teen tour” or “travel abroad” experience! Accredited by the Commission on Secondary Schools of the Middle States Association, AMHSI is non-denominational and pluralistic so whether the student is looking to explore his/her heritage or just interested in studying history and traveling, AMHSI offers the opportunity to do so, while preparing for college and beyond.
After giving it some thought I decided to apply. And here I am, spending a semester in Israel with 17 new friends from all over the United States and Europe. Since we arrived, a huge part of our life has been interacting with the Israeli students on campus. We are living near Beersheva on the AMHSI campus located at the Eshel Hanassi regional high school. In addition to traditional classrooms, the Eshel Hanassi campus includes a student run farm. There are about 1500 students in the school and 220 who live on campus. Our group hangs out a lot with these students living on campus, whether on the court or at meals.
When we first arrived, the Israeli kids didn’t really talk to us, but instead just observed us from a distance. When we ate meals, especially lunch, and all the students were in the dining room, the Israelis would look at us curiously and every so often I could tell that they were talking about us hearing the word “Americanit” in their conversation.
As students at the school, we have responsibilities for the farm. We arrived for work at the same time as some of the Israeli students. When the head of farming asked us what animal we wanted to work with, the Israeli students started screaming out cow in Hebrew. We quickly figured out that working with the cows was not the best job, the cows are smelly, gross and milking them is not very fun. Feeding the baby sheep was a much better job.
The stares and comments ended when we discovered the campus basketball and soccer courts. One night we took a basketball and walked over to the courts and started a game with the Israelis. Through the game we got to know each other. After that game, we were invited back to their dorms.
Today, we eat together, play basketball together, and have joint evening activities. We have farming or kitchen duty together; they are teaching us Hebrew, and we are getting to know the Israeli way of life. This holds true for when we travel around Israel. Wherever we go, we always find and meet Israeli kids. In fact, my friends and I aren’t really tourists anymore but kids who actually live a normal life in Israel. We are doing what any typical Israeli teen does, getting to know the land on the Yam Le’Yam hike, a four day trip through the hills of the Galilee: traversing the country from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sea of Galilee. This week we are going to Poland to learn firsthand about the destruction of the Jewish community during the Holocaust. At the end of November we are going to participate in Gadna, the Israeli Defense Force’s pre-military army simulation program; and then go on an extended trip hiking in the desert hiking followed by sun and fun in Israel’s southern resort of Eilat.
Space is still available for the Alexander Muss High School in Israel Semester Program leaving January 27, 2013 and returning May 31, 2013. Participants will travel through 4000 years of history as the land of Israel becomes the “living classroom.”
In addition to the semester program, AMHSI offers 8 week mini-semesters and two summer sessions. The program is unique in that it is the only non denominational, pluralistic academic experience in Israel for high school teens. AMHSI students are eligible to receive 6 academic credits from the University of Miami’s George Feldenkreis Program in Judaic Studies. For more information, please contact Dana Gerbie Klein, 617-566-8166 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This program is just one example of the many teen Israel experiences that are available. To learn more about the many options, please join us at Hebrew College this Sunday, November 18th for our annual Israel Programs Fair. For more information, please contact Will C. at 617-457-8556 or email@example.com.