For Shylee Ravid, an incoming junior at Windward High School in West Los Angeles, many memories at Alexander Muss High School in Israel, Jewish National Fund-USA’s flagship study abroad in Israel program, stand out.
Her time doing “Gadna,” where students spend several days undertaking basic training experiences with the Israel Defense Forces, taught her valuable discipline and leadership skills. Hiking Yam L’Yam, a three-day trek from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sea of Galilee, helped her embrace her fears. Hanging with classmates in the school common room offered the simple pleasure of being around kind and genuine peers.
“It was such an incredible experience,” Ravid said. “It was nothing like what I expected, but it was the best four months I’ve ever had.”
Shylee was one of over 100 Jewish high schoolers who spent a recent semester abroad at Alexander Muss High School in Israel, affectionately known as Muss.
Every year, Muss, a college-prep school in Hod HaSharon, on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, welcomes high school students from across North America and the world to its experiential learning programs, including 18-week semesters abroad and eight-week “mini-mesters.”
The students’ experiences at Muss are jam-packed with regularly held tiyulim (field trips) along with an accredited general studies curriculum. A typical class day begins with breakfast in the Hadar Ochel (food hall) at 7.00 a.m., followed by lessons, more meals and free time.
Inbal Ziv is a student at Futures Academy, a network of private schools in California that offers customized lesson plans. However, this past spring, she left the classroom in Woodland Hills and joined the more than 100 students on Muss’ campus, following in the footsteps of two older siblings, both of whom are Muss alumni.
The experience, she said, did not disappoint.
“There were a lot of people on campus, and it doesn’t matter what program you’re on—everybody bonds and everybody talks and plays spike ball together.”
Similar sentiments were shared by Isabelle Elias, an incoming junior at Milken Community School, who spent the 2022 spring semester at Muss. A highlight of the experience, she said, was learning about Israel’s history while physically visiting the sites where so much of what she had read in books took place.
“I always learned about Israel, but you never get to truly learn about something until you go through [it] and experience it,” she said. “We would learn about the Six Day War, then go to battlefield sites where it occurred.”
“We would learn about the Six Day War, then go to battlefield sites where it occurred.” – Isabelle Elias
Elias studied at Muss through a unique partnership between JNF-USA and Milken. Every year, Milken sends a cohort of tenth-grade students to Israel for a semester at Muss as part of its Tiferet Fellowship.
Milken incoming junior Benjamin Ahdoot also studied abroad at Muss this past spring. “In tenth grade, the opportunity came along to do this, and I wanted to grab it,” he said, adding that, “all other Israel trips pale in comparison to this one.”
Before enrolling at Milken, Elias attended Sinai Akiba Academy, and her entire life, she learned about Israel. But studying Israel while actually being there was a welcome change, she said.
“Now that I’ve experienced Israel, saw all the culture and people in Israel [and] all the love and support that is in the air, I am more passionate about Zionism and standing up to antisemitism than ever before,” Isabelle said. “We have to protect the country we love.”
Ahdoot agreed. “A lot of us don’t realize how important Israel is for the Jewish people until we go there,” he said.
For all of the students, one thing was for sure: the semester at Muss was something they would not soon forget.
“It was such an amazing experience, and if someone has the opportunity to do it, they should,” said Elias. “It was eye-opening.”
In honor of its 50th anniversary, Alexander Muss High School in Israel is launching a fundraising campaign for a $10 million endowment fund, safeguarding the institutional belief that the life-changing experience of studying in Israel should be available to beyond those who can afford full tuition. For more information about Muss, visit amhsi.org or contact Marnie Nadolne, Associate Director of Teen Engagement, at email@example.com.