Israel’s best kept “secret” – Free High school with Naale Elite Academy
(EJNews) – With mounting pressures on Jewish communities around the world, many parents are looking for a way to get a quality and affordable high school education for their children without compromising on their Jewish identity.
For over 1700 Jewish teens, the answer lies in Israel. Not willing to wait until after high school to start their future, they have come to the Naale Elite Academy. The Naale program gives teens the chance to complete high school at Israeli Youth Villages, “Yeshivot” and “Ulpanot” on a full scholarship. Making Aliyah is not a requirement of the program, students that wish to make Aliyah after graduating receive all the help and the support they need. We spoke to Naale students in order to see what motivated them to make the courageous move of coming to Israel for high school without their parents.
The wish to have a larger more diverse Jewish peer group was a motivating factor for many. David Peterman, 16, from Montreal, finally found his niche at Naale. He explained, “There weren’t many Jewish school options for me. I was homeschooled for 2 years before I came to Naale. I came to Israel on a two week trip and I fell in love with Israel and wanted to return.” The need to feel like an integrated part of the student body is important for teens. Sophia Zylbersztajn, 18, from San Paulo, Brazil expressed it clearly, “Jewish life is hard in Brazil. I wanted to come to a Jewish high school and make new friends.”
Many Naale students had been on a search for a sense of belonging. Yechi Fulzbacher, 17, from Antwerp Belgium, saw Naale as a chance to find a place where he belonged. “I didn’t feel like I fit in the school I was attending,” he explained. The teens felt an overwhelming sense of belongingness arriving at Naale. “In Germany, I was different from other people, here I am free to be myself,” Odelia Bergauz, 15, from Munich Germany said with a wide smile.
For those teens who knew that they wanted to make Aliyah in the future, the Naale program offered the chance to get a ‘jump start’ on their acclamation into Israeli society. Adam Bernitz, 17, from Johannesburg, SA, told us, “I wanted to go to university in Israel. I’m very Zionistic so it was even better to come for high school and get a good grounding in Hebrew.” Naale offers students intensive Hebrew classes during the first year with the aim for students reaching a solid Hebrew level by the end of the first year. All students take the “Bagrut” – The Israeli matriculation exams. Therefore students are not required to know Hebrew prior to being accepted into the program. After graduating students can choose to go study in Universities world wide as the Israeli matriculation is recognized as a High School Diploma. Students who choose to remain in Israel receive a full scholarship for their first degree in Israel upon completing the Army service or “Sherot Leumi” (national service).
Many parents have jumped at the chance to give their children an amazing chance to grow and become more mature. Simmy and Yaakova Pollock, parents of two teens who are currently studying at the Naale Elite Academy, saw incredible changes in their teens. “They have grown in their self-confidence and have realized previously unknown abilities to travel alone and successfully navigate the Israeli transit system, become bilingual and succeed in being mainstreamed into Israeli classrooms,” Pollock said.
For any parents who might be concerned that their children will lack the family experience at Naale, host families across Israel volunteer to offer students the chance to have an ‘adoptive family.’ Eliezer Gershonov, 17, from Bulgaria, explained that his host family is one of the highlights of his Naale experience. “My host family is very warm and inviting. They really help me adjust.” Needless to say that those who have relatives in Israel can spend weekends and holidays with them.
In addition, in all the schools the Naale students have a dedicated staff that is there to look after them 24/7. Each naale group has 2 counselors, a home room teacher, a house mother and additional support staff.
Atara Trudler, 17 from Philadelphia, USA summed up the feelings of all Naale students, saying “I was really pleased to discover that such a program actually existed.” For teens wanting to express their Jewish identity, have an adventure and feel at home, the chance to finish high school in Israel can be a dream come true.
For more information about the Naale Elite Academy, visit www.naale-elite-academy.com