As Israel strengthens measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 and as uncertainty around the availability of international flights grows, Jewish National Fund-USA immediately released $500,000 from the organization’s endowment to charter an El Al Boeing 787 Dreamliner to bring home 282 American students, including students from Boston and New England, studying at Jewish National Fund-USA’s Alexander Muss High School (AMHSI-JNF/High School in Israel) in Hod HaSharon, Israel, in addition to students from other programs.

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On Sunday evening, High School in Israel staff joined students and escorted them by bus to Israel’s Ben Gurion airport, where chaperones accompanied students through passport control and to the plane. Once on the plane, students were accompanied by El Al staff members. Students were greeted on arrival at JFK by Jewish National Fund-USA and High School in Israel professionals, in addition to many of the students’ parents.

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Anat Nadir-Levi, the mother of Newton student Tia Lavi, was happy to have her daughter home. “Tia was having such an amazing time in Israel, so she’s a little sad to be back, however, I’m glad that she’s safe and sound. I feel a sense of pride in our community to see the lengths that Jewish National Fund-USA went to in order to bring our children home. It felt like it was straight out of a movie, and it had a happy ending!”

“Even though it was before 6 a.m., we couldn’t have been more excited to see our daughter come through the arrivals doors at the airport. The kids were happy to see their parents, yet there were tears in their eyes because they had to say goodbye to the friends they had made at High School in Israel. My daughter has been stuck on FaceTime for the last 12 hours speaking with her friends from the program. Of course, Jewish National Fund-USA made this all possible—and I’m not only speaking about how they miraculously brought the kids home, I am referring to the way they operate such an amazing program at High School in Israel. I can’t wait to send Tia’s younger siblings on the program so they, too, can have a life-changing experience in Israel.”

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Jewish National Fund-USA New England executive director Sara Hefez shared: “In my 15-year career with Jewish National Fund-USA, this operation has to be one of my proudest moments. Acting in such a time-sensitive manner showed the students and their parents our organizational heart and soul.”

“With every challenge there are opportunities,” said AMHSI-JNF president Ron Werner. “I am inspired by the words of High School in Israel’s rabbi, Leor Sinai, who shared with me that it is certainly a time for cheshbon nefesh, self-reflection, as we take stock of our past and prepare for our future. Despite the current challenges, we remind ourselves that the hundreds of students we are bringing back to the U.S. will have had the most transformative experience of their lives in Israel as they join 32,000 alumni who have experienced the same ‘Muss magic’ since 1972.”

Jewish National Fund-USA is the leading philanthropic organization for Israel that supports critical environmental and nation-building activities in Israel’s north and south. Through its One Billion Dollar Roadmap for the Next Decade, Jewish National Fund-USA is developing new communities in the Galilee and Negev, connecting the next generation to Israel and creating infrastructure for ecology, special needs and heritage preservation.

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High School in Israel looks forward to welcoming students back for the 2020 Summer Session. Prospective students and parents who are interested in learning more about AMHSI-JNF or Roots Israel (a three-week service learning program) can visit AMHSI.org or contact Israel programs admissions director in New England, Dana Klein, at dklein@jnf.org or 617-423-0999 ext. 484.

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