Reflecting on AMHSI
Article by Ruby Bender, February 2018 and Impact Fellow
It’s eighty degrees out. The air outside smells like citrus and sweet perfume, and flowers cover the highway. Not flowers you see here, but big exotic flowers that are vibrant and blooming and can be seen miles away. The scenery flies by as the car zooms along the road at the average speed limit of 80. When the car stops we walk into a garden filled with orange trees the same sweet smelling flowers that were all over the country. In the middle of winter it felt like I was in a summer paradise, with warm days and beautiful gardens and beaches with the most blue ocean water I have ever seen. For two months I lived in this land that resembled a Utopia, visiting the north and south, climbing mountains and playing in sand dunes in the desert.
This is my trip to Israel, studying abroad and living in a country on the opposite side of the world. The program I studied through was Alexander Muss High School in Israel, a study abroad school that a lot of students from PW have gone to. I found out about the program through a Muss alum, and started applying in September of this school year. The application process was long, but not grueling, and I worked with Mr. Blizzard to figure out my classes the spring semester. Through a lot of communication, I was able to schedule my courses and workload around my 8 weeks studying abroad in Israel.
The program itself offers three courses; 8 week mini-mesters (which I did), full semesters, and a six week summer program that are based out of their campus in a suburb outside of Tel Aviv, Hod Hasharon. On campus you go to school with other kids in your program, and meet international and Israeli students at the dining hall and playgrounds within the walls. When you walk outside there is a town that is like a Mediterranean Chestnut Hill, with shopping and restaurants and grocery stores to buy necessities for living on your own. Of course, you share a dorm with other students. It is like living on a college campus, and instead of an upperclassman for an RA, you have Israeli adults to help guide you along this trip. I took an additional course with my home studies while I was over there, and through that course I learned the history of Israel, how innovative the country is, and the diversity of citizens within the country. Because of the course I also learned about an ancient war one day and then the next day I would be in the city that covers the site where it happened. We went on tiyuls, or trips, every Tuesday and Wednesday.
One tiyul that I remember vividly is climbing up Masada. For three days we had learned about the Great Revolt. The story is that Rome had started ruling Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel, in 6 B.C.E., where the Jewish people living in the country were oppressed by those in power. Because of these procurators in charge, the Jewish people were divided into four political groups, one of which was gaining in popularity, the Zealots. The Zealots advocated for revolution, and in 64 C.E. a revolution began. Halfway through the revolt, 697 Succarri Zealots took the fortress of Masada in the midst of night from the Roman soldiers stationed on the mountain. The Zealots held the mountain for three years after the revolt ended in 70 C.E. During their time on the mountain, these warriors lived their lives as if they weren’t in a war. The night before the Romans invaded the fortress, 690 of these Zealots committed suicide by having several men go to each family and kill everyone. After all had died, those seven then had one of them kill each other, and the last soldier remaining killed himself. He was the leader of all Masada. When we climbed to the top of Masada we sat in the cistern, covered in dust, where the seven survivors sat the morning Romans invaded. Our teacher told us that those seven were two old ladies and five orphans; their story is lost to history after that day. The leader of these warriors was Elizar Ben Yair. He was 19 years old.
Studying abroad I did more than learn about a country, I witnessed where history happened. I lived in a different place. I saw the tops of mountains and went to the lowest point on Earth. On the program Alexander Muss High School in Israel, I saw new places and lived a new life, and ultimately grew as a person. I have grown to be passionate of Israel and happy to be Jewish, and wish I could go back.
If you have any questions or want anymore information, please contact Rabbi Greg Litcofsky at [email protected].