Fresh off the plane, olim brave school system

Despite warnings about dire conditions of Israeli schools, Talia Masri says it isn't like that at all.

tali school 298.88 (photo credit: courtesy)
tali school 298.88
(photo credit: courtesy)
Meirav Masri, aged six-and-a-half, got off to a great start in first grade at Modi'in's Buchman state religious school. She came home smiling and excited and even asked Mom if she could have her first play date. Meirav is an olah from Baltimore who arrived only two weeks ago on a Nefesh B'Nefesh aliya flight with 200 other new immigrants from North America. Meirav came with her father, Daniel; her mother, Talia; and her five siblings. Talia Masri had been warned there would be "40 kids in the class and no one cares," but it wasn't like that at all. "We came to Israel. We didn't move to New Jersey. So we were ready for an Israeli school," Talia said. "There were about 30 kids in the class, and everyone was really friendly." The Masris were allocated a buddy family (old-timers at the school), and Meirav was told she wouldn't have to worry about the Hebrew, because it would come with time. The family was also impressed by the facilities and by the school principal, who told them they could come and discuss any problems they might have. Both mother and daughter liked that the school was within walking distance - in Baltimore, they had to carpool. Another advantage for the Masris is that school finishes much earlier here: Meirav's classes end at 1:30 p.m. In Baltimore, she would have been in school until 3:30 p.m. In Talia's view, this gives the kids more time to play and just be kids. Another new immigrant getting her first taste of the Israeli educational system on Sunday was 26-year-old Mirelle Levitan, a resident of Tel Aviv who made aliya from Johannesburg in April. Levitan spent her first day working in a Tel Aviv kindergarten. She doubts she would even have been allowed to work in a similar framework in South Africa without proper training. It was a positive experience: "It was much less of a balagan [mess] than I thought. The kids were terrified on their first day in gan, and so was I, but they don't judge you like adults do, so we had fun." Levitan also believes the job will help improve her Hebrew. "The kids are learning language skills and so am I," she said. "There is a lot of repetition of stories and nursery rhymes, which is good for both of us." She likened the kindergarten to a big ulpan, but noted that it was a lot easier to speak to a three-year-old than to a 30-year-old.