This Week, We Went Back to School
Monday, January 29th, I happily went back to the classroom at Alexander Muss High School in Israel (Muss). The feeling that life goes on was suddenly strong and reassuring, mixed with a deep sentiment of gratitude for the one (and only) student whom I was going to meet – and for his parents, for all the parents who chose to send their children to study this semester in Israel, and the students themselves, who came from afar, alone, to a country at war.
Since the Black Shabbat of October 7, 2023, life in Israel has been a rollercoaster of mixed and intense emotions. I believe I’m expressing something all Israelis share in: sorrows for the 1200+ dead, fear and despair for the hostages, anxiety for the war and the uncertainty of the future, empathy for any civilian population in Gaza - victims of Hamas, as well. Disgust at the antisemitic reactions that followed around the world, and disbelief in front of the accusation of genocide at the International Court of Justice, which decided to pursue its investigation against Israel for its response to the deadliest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. There have also been moments of positivity: feelings of renewed national unity, a sense of belonging through volunteering in agricultural and other needed works.
The overwhelming sentiment of loneliness and isolation is certainly shared by most Israelis.
However, this week, I didn’t feel it as strongly as I have since October 7, because this week, we went back to school. We welcomed the students who came for the new semester. They came here for a semester abroad, proving to the world that Israel is not as isolated as it sometimes seems to be, and that the connection between Israel and diaspora Jews is unbreakable.
Although I teach only one course, with only one student in it, my heart was warmed, and my spirit lifted. Through this one student, hope survives. With the 35 students who came in January 2024, Muss thrives and life in Israel goes on. We, as Muss teachers, will do our best to give these students the best possible experience Israel has to offer, and guide them through their discovery of Israel’s past and present, so they can be part of Israel’s future.
Never have I felt more than today, how Israel lives not only for all of us here, but also for the global Jewish community. Before I made aliyah, I was grateful to Israel for being a potential safe haven against antisemitism abroad. Now as an Israeli, I feel grateful to Jews abroad who support Israel in these difficult times.
And I am grateful to Alexander Muss High School in Israel – and proud to be part of the Muss family – for embodying this organic connection between Israel and Jews around the world.
Dr. Gavinson is a French-Israeli citizen. She did her Ph. D. at the University of Colorado-Boulder, in Diplomatic History with an emphasis on Jewish Studies and the Middle East. Before that, she worked as an archaeologist in post-Soviet Central Asia, and received her Masters in Classics (Archaeology and History) at the Université Nanterre Paris X. Following 9/11 and the Second Intifada, her interests shifted and she did another Masters in History and International Relations at the Institut d’Études Politiques-Sciences-Po Paris. She teaches history and geography in several French high schools, as well as history and Latin at Alexander Muss High School in Israel, where she joined the Muss family 3 years ago.