TEENS FROM Ukraine pose for a group photo before their departure from Dnipropetrovsk to participate in the Na’aleh high school program in Israel..
(photo credit: JEWISH AGENCY)
One hundred and twenty-seven high school students were headed straight to Israeli schools after having arrived in the country from across the globe on Thursday, the day the new school year kicked off.
The teens, arriving from Brazil, Russia, Ukraine, Germany, Great Britain, Spain and Italy, were set to join another 493 youths participating in their first year of the program, Na’aleh, a Hebrew acronym for “youth who immigrate before their parents.”
The program eases the students into the education system by putting them in classes with other children and educators who speak their language and understand their culture.
The program is a joint initiative of the Education Ministry and the Jewish Agency and caters to youths in ninth or 10th grade, taking them through to 12th grade. The students are provided with intensive Hebrew lessons, and after six months may begin to integrate into classes with native Israelis.
Many of the Na’aleh participants traveled to Israel aboard three flights from Ukraine and Germany, which carried some 200 new immigrants and teenagers participating in another Jewish Agency
program for teens, called Selah. The latter is geared toward youth from the former Soviet Union, comprising a 12- to 14-month academic and army preparatory course and aliya program for recent high school graduates from the FSU who immigrate to Israel on their own or prior to their parents.
“The State of Israel continues to be a warm home for Jews from all over the world,” said Immigration and Absorption Minister Sofa Landver, who greeted the newcomers at a festive ceremony at Ben-Gurion Airport. She expressed hope that the Na’aleh students’ integration into Israeli society would lead their parents to follow them to Israel.
The new Na’aleh participants are among a total of 17,000 participating in the program from more than 40 countries. The Education Ministry’s Administration for Rural Education & Youth Aliya, which operates and finances the program, recorded a significant increase in participants from Brazil and the Commonwealth of Independent States. In addition, for the first year ever in the history of the program – which is entering its 25th year – there are participants from Turkey and the Philippines.
Gad Natan arrived this week in the Mosenson Youth Village in Hod Hasharon from Cozumel, Mexico, to begin his first year of the program.
“I come from a small Island in Mexico with a small Jewish community of about 20 people; we have one synagogue,” he said. “There is only one small high school on the island. My father is Israeli, so I understand some Hebrew. It has been a dream to come to live in Israel. I wanted to improve my learning abilities, and I was also drawn to the experience of meeting friends from so many different countries.”
Sapir Keren, who is entering 10th grade and her second year of the program at the youth village, has now integrated into an Israeli class. She says the key to success in the program is to be open to meeting new people. “They will eventually become your family here in Israel. The youth village is my home here,” she added.
Dr. Benny Fisher, head of the Administration for Rural Education and Youth Immigration, told The Jerusalem Post
that some 90 percent of the program’s graduates have chosen to make aliya and have successfully integrated into the IDF, academia and the workplace, and noted that a significant portion of their families have subsequently chosen to follow in their footsteps.
Fisher said the program continues to flourish and expand, seeing a 41 percent increase in participants over the past five years, “despite the natural hardship in leaving their home and family at a young age and moving to a new country.”