American high-schoolers return from action-packed semester in Israel

The students learned and grew at Jewish National Fund-USA's Alexander Muss High School in Israel

Students from Alexander Muss High School in Israel at the Western Wall. Credit: Courtesy of Jewish National Fund-USA.
Students from Alexander Muss High School in Israel at the Western Wall. Credit: Courtesy of Jewish National Fund-USA.

More than 30 American high school students studying at Jewish National Fund-USA’s Alexander Muss High School in Israel (Muss) recently returned to the United States after spending an enriching and action-packed semester abroad learning and living among the people of Israel in their ancient homeland.

While ongoing security challenges have grounded Israel’s tourism economy to a halt, the students staying at the program’s campus in Hod Hasharon, just outside of Tel Aviv, say they never felt in danger and that there was nowhere else they would rather have been.

“Friends asked if I was crazy to go to Israel during this period of intense war and upheaval,” said Talia, a Muss student from Chicago. “Others asked me if I felt safe going and how my parents felt about it. And although it was a bit scary at first, my parents and I didn’t hesitate. We understood that now, more than ever, this was important.”

As Jewish National Fund-USA’s premier college-prep, study-abroad experience, Muss blends American-accredited secular classes with a unique experiential Israel-studies program, It provides students with the knowledge, skills, emotional resilience and pride they need to proudly advocate for Israel and the Jewish people, even amid surging hate and ignorance.

Throughout the semester, the students visited famous and lesser-known historical sites like the ancient fortress of Masada and the Western Wall. A visit to the Atlit Detention Center Heritage Site taught students about the hardships that post-World War II Jews experienced when they immigrated to Israel while spending Shabbat in the northern city of Tzfat introduced students to the center of Jewish mysticism in Israel.

Students from the Alexander Muss High School visit an Israel Defense Forces base. Credit: Courtesy of the Jewish National Fund-USA.

In addition to learning about Israel’s past, the students got a firsthand look at the grief and resilience of Israel post-Oct. 7. They visited the site of the Nova music festival massacre and traveled to villages in the south that were destroyed in the attacks. They also saw these communities being rebuilt while meeting Israelis who embody the Jewish people’s unbreakable spirit.

“We went to Sderot and Beersheva, and we were able to bear witness to where the Oct. 7 attacks occurred,” said Maya, an alumna from New York. “That was the first time I ever really noticed what had happened firsthand. Seeing both the carnage and Israeli flags everywhere made my connection with Israel feel so much stronger, knowing that no matter what happens, Israel will continue to persevere and survive.”

Now, as the students return home with college on the horizon, the Muss alumni are prepared for both the academic rigor and the ever-present threat of anti-Israel campaigns. They feel equipped and excited to advocate for Israel and to take their rightful places among young Jewish leaders across the nation.

Students on Muss’ Hod Hasharon campus just outside of Tel Aviv. Credit: Courtesy of the Jewish National Fund-USA.

“Muss has really set me up to go back to the States and advocate for myself and for other Jews that can’t fight for themselves,” said Lila, another New York native. “I have not only learned the history here, but I’ve seen the history firsthand and was able to experience it with my own eyes. I now feel prepared to go back and combat the antisemitism that I’ve previously experienced.”

For more information about Jewish National Fund-USA’s Alexander Muss High School in Israel, visit: www.amhsi.org.

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Jewish National Fund-USA builds a strong, vibrant future for the land and people of Israel through bold initiatives and Zionist education. As a leading philanthropic movement, the organization supports critical environmental and nation-building activities in Israel’s north and south as it develops new communities in the Negev and Galilee, connects the next generation to Israel, and creates infrastructure and programs that support ecology, people with disabilities, and heritage site preservation, all while running a fully accredited study abroad experience through its Alexander Muss High School in Israel.
We are the only pluralist, college prep, fully accredited program where high school students from the United States and across the globe study abroad together. Our Israel-studies curriculum spans Jewish and Israeli history, using the land as the classroom, while our general studies department provides a multitude of classes at various levels.
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