69 Years Young

 Despite its phenomenal success, the Modern Jewish State is still in its relative infancy.  Its prospects depend largely on whether the next generation of Israelis can emulate and build upon the achievements of its predecessors. Based on what our youngsters have accomplished during the last 12 months, however, the future is very bright.
Israeli high school students regularly win International awards.  This year, two Israelis won medals at the annual International Chemistry Olympiad in Tbilisi, Georgia. Israeli children won four medals at the Physics Olympiad in Zurich and six medals at the Mathematical Olympiad in Hong Kong.
An initiative by Israel’s Education Ministry has resulted in the addition of robotics into the curricula of some 300 Israeli elementary schools.  This should allow more Israeli schools to continue the success of Israel’s Rothschild-HaShomron High School in Binyamina, which won through to the International finals of the FIRST Robotics Competition in Shanghai and finished second of the 57 competing countries.
Israel’s leadership in the hi-tech revolution is being sustained by several programs. First Israel is producing educational curricula in science and technology, with a special emphasis on cyber-security.  Meanwhile, ORT’s Israel Sci-Tech Schools are receiving international recognition for their network of institutions that focus on the education of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).  Finally, Israeli technical skills are being introduced very early, as Sagy Bar of the Rashi Foundation (a philanthropic group managing Israel’s new cyber education center) said, “… first grade they learn the letters, then how to read and how to write. We are building the next level of knowledge – how to code”.

Educational opportunities for Israeli schoolchildren are literally “out of this world”.  Israeli pupils were the only high school students to build a satellite for the European Union’s QB50 Thermosphere research program.  Their Cubesat (nano-satellite) Duchifat-2 is currently on board the International Space Station and will be placed into orbit in June.  Israeli kids can soar to great educational heights at an even younger age. For example, pupils from Yigal Alon elementary school sent a meteorological balloon up 15 miles and used two GoPro type cameras, flight data recorder, locator and radio transmitter to collect images and complete flight data.  Finally, last year, the Ramon Space Lab program ran as a pilot in 12 Israeli middle schools and this year it has been launched in 100 more

Educational success in Israel is not limited to its Jewish population.  For the second year in a row, the Galilee Druze town of Beit Jann achieved the highest rate (99%) of students passing the high school matriculation exam. The Arab village of Abu al-Hija, outside Karmiel, came in second.  Meanwhile, three students from the Israeli-Arab Bustan El-Marj Sci-Tech High School (part of the ORT Sci-Tech network mentioned above) won 3rd prize at Israel’s Young Engineers’ Conference.  But top of the class (and Israel’s highest achieving pupil) is Mohammed Zeidan, from the Arab community of Kafr Manda in northern Israel. He scored 800 on Israeli’s Psychometric Entrance Test, the maximum possible score, and now plans to study electrical engineering at Israel’s prestige Technion Institute.
For those kids that are not so lucky, Israel recently allocated half a billion shekels ($130 million) to the budget for after-school informal education for children from lower socio-economic backgrounds. And Israeli children of Ethiopian origin graduating from high school are narrowing the educational gap with 89% taking the matriculation tests compared with the national average of 94%.  The disadvantaged are also supported by charities such as Colel Chabad which recently awarded 100 orphans with academic scholarships to pay for tutoring, music lessons, summer camps and therapies to help them succeed both in school and socially.  But there are many children with special needs, and Israel is there for them too.  Take Ilanot for example - a Jerusalem school attended daily by 70 children aged six to twenty-one with physical and cognitive disabilities.  The school provides students with knowledge to improve motor function and help independence to increase their quality of life.

Israel’s children will grow up to continue the task of improving relations between all of Israel’s inhabitants and seeking peace with Israel’s neighbors. They will hopefully include some of those currently studying at the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic Tabeetha school in Jaffa.  They will also include many of the 2,300 Jewish, Muslim, Bedouin and Druze children from 152 Israeli schools who come together regularly through their love of soccer.

Israel reaches out to Jewish children everywhere. The Naale/Elite Academy brings Jewish teenage girls from around the world for a free high school matriculation program in top Israeli religious educational institutions all over Israel.  Naale is fully subsidized and supervised by the Israeli Ministry of Education.

Finally, InterNations’ Family Life Index in 2016 reported that of the world’s 41 best countries to raise a family, Israel was 4th on the list, behind Austria, Finland and Sweden. The 2017 list has recently been published and Israel has risen to third.  Good childcare and education options were major factors.

Israel’s children – our future builders.

Michael Ordman writes a free weekly newsletter containing positive news stories about Israel.
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