On Aug. 29, 2022, I hugged my parents goodbye at JFK International Airport. After I got through the long lines of check in and security, I got to my gate, knowing I was about to start an amazing four-month journey in Israel.

After a long 10-and-a-half hour flight, the fall semester students of Alexander Muss High School in Israel landed at Ben Gurion Airport. Although each one of us was exhausted from the flight, we were filled with joy knowing how exciting these four months were going to be. We met our amazing madrichim (counselors) at the airport and continued our way to campus.

The majority of the students did not know each other since we came from all around the U.S. But right as we got to our dorms, everyone immediately got to know each other. We talked about where we were from, our interests and hobbies, and much more. Everyone instantly clicked with one another, and we got along so well. Even though I have only been on this program for three weeks now, I already feel as if I have known these people for months.

The day after we arrived, we started our first day of classes. We had our first Israeli studies class in the morning and had time to finish unpacking in the afternoon.

Our first trip was to Tel Gezer. A tel is at least two civilizations layered on top of each other. We got to walk around this tel and learn about the history that took place there. After visiting Tel Gezer, we headed back to campus for lunch and had more classes in the afternoon.

Our next trip was to Mount Gilboa. We had our Israeli studies class on the mountain and then hiked down Gilboa. After three hours of hiking, we made it to the bottom and had lunch at Gan HaShlosha, which is one of Israel’s most beautiful national parks. There were many springs where you could swim and enjoy the incredible view.

Over the past three weeks, we have been on three overnight trips. Our first trip was to Jerusalem. We went to Hezekiah’s Tunnel and visited the Kotel (Western Wall). We then visited Ben Yehuda Street and enjoyed a scrumptious dinner in Jerusalem. Our second overnight trip was to Tel Aviv, where we spent our second Shabbat on the beach. We had our Shabbat service and watched the sunset. The next morning, we had the opportunity to return to the beach, shop, and explore Tel Aviv in a new way. Our latest overnight trip was Yam El Yam. (“Yam el Yam” translates to “sea to sea” from Hebrew.) We hiked 47 miles from the Mediterranean Sea all the way to the Kineret. We hiked for four days and three nights and stayed in tents while enjoying scenic views along the way. After completing the hike, we all jumped into the Kineret at the same time!

Although I have only been in this program for three weeks, I have been enjoying every minute of it. I am able to explore the land of Israel with my friends while still being in school. I look forward to a great semester and future trips!

Rebecca Vaynshteyn is a junior at Marblehead High School, where she is the co-president of the Jewish Student Union (JSU) and involved in DECA. Rebecca is a Senior JTI Peer Leadership Fellow and is a member of the JCCNS and Marblehead swim teams. She spends her summers at Camp Tevya and is part of the Temple B’nai Abraham community. 

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