Amid war, American teens are spending their semester in Israel

In an interview with “i24 News,” two students share their life-changing experience at Alexander Muss High School in Israel.

Muss students Bella Jenis and Benji Solomon speaking to i24 News. Screenshot.
Muss students Bella Jenis and Benji Solomon speaking to i24 News. Screenshot.

In Hod Hasharon, just 20 minutes outside of Tel Aviv, a group of more than 30 American students are three-quarters of their way through a semester-abroad study program. All appears normal, yet this is a semester unlike any other. Israel is in the middle of a war, something that might scare off your typical high student. However, these are not your average teenagers.

The program is the Alexander Muss High School in Israel (Muss), Jewish National Fund-USA’s college-prep, semester abroad in Israel experience. And the students are unfazed by the conflict; rather, they use it as fuel for their drive to learn more about their ancestral homeland in a life-defining experience.

“Despite the war going on, I felt like I still needed to come and be in Israel,” said Muss student Benji Solomon in an interview with i24 News. “I came on this program to learn more about my Jewish history and identity, and with the war that’s more important than ever.”

“When the war broke out, I knew for a fact there was nothing keeping me away,” said Bella Jenis, another Muss student. “The Jewish people here need us as much as we need them.”

For over 50 years, Muss has deepened the connection between American students and the land and people of Israel with its unique curriculum that blends traditionally accredited classroom learning with a unique experiential Israel studies program that uses the land of Israel as a living and breathing classroom.

Muss Students in Jerusalem. Credit: Courtesy of Jewish National Fund-USA.

Now, as Israel fights an existential battle, the Jewish bond with Israel has never been more important. The students studying there understand this. They see the solidarity of the Israeli people. It inspires them, strengthens them. It secures their Jewish identity, makes them proud to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

“One of the biggest things I’ve learned being here for the past few months was seeing the strength and resolve and the fearlessness of a lot of Israelis,” Solomon said. “Not running from anything, defending their country. I think I’ve really taken that to heart and really made that a part of my Jewish identity.”

When asked if they were scared due to the war, Solomon kept it short and sweet. “Not really.”

“I really feel like I have never felt safer,” said Jenis. “Although my peers have shied away, I know that I am here for a reason, to show that there’s no reason to be scared and that Israel’s a great place.”

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

Muss’s reach extends beyond current students. Nearly 500 Muss students and alumni participated in the program’s “I believe” campaign, raising over $80,000 to further deepen the impact of its Zionist education programming. If you ask the students on campus, it’s already working.

“Muss has really strengthened my identity,” said Jenis, who had never been to Israel before. “I have learned so much about Jewish history, and Israel is really a living classroom for us. We have been everywhere, and it’s really amazing how much we can learn in just a semester.”

With a month left of the program, the students continue to soak up Israel’s history and beauty. There’s plenty of the latter, even in wartime. While the semester is only the start of their Jewish journey—they have an entire lifetime to lead the next generation of Zionists—it begins with these months in Israel, and the memories and reflections they will be taking home with them.

Muss students on a farm in Israel’s Negev. Credit: Courtesy of Jewish National Fund-USA.

“When this is over and I go home, I’ll tell people that I learned a lot about my Judaism, and I’ll tell them Israel is a great place and they should all come,” Solomon said. “And I’ll tell them that it’s relatively safe here, and people are starting to rebuild because that’s what Israelis do.”

For the next month though, whether in the classroom or Israel’s more scenic locations, there is just the next lesson.

To learn more about Alexander Muss High School in Israel, visit amhsi.org.

You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.
About & contact The Publishers
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.
Releases published on the JNS Wire are communicated and paid for by third parties. Jewish News Syndicate, and any of its distribution partners, take zero responsibility for the accuracy of any content published in any press release. All the statements, opinions, figures in text or multimedia including photos or videos included in each release are presented solely by the sponsoring organization, and in no way reflect the views or recommendation of Jewish News Syndicate or any of its partners. If you believe any of the content in a release published on JNS Wire is offensive or abusive, please report a release.
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates