It’s always “Mission Possible” at JNF-USA’s High School in Israel

Staff and Students Express Elation Over Return to JNF-USA’s High School in Israel.

Charles E Smith Jewish Day School students earning their popsicles after a long day of outdoor experiential learning. (photo credit: JNF)
Charles E Smith Jewish Day School students earning their popsicles after a long day of outdoor experiential learning.
(photo credit: JNF)
 “Israel is a very different scene than Massachusetts, and I’m so excited to be here,” said Longmeadow (MA) high school student, Murphy Haber, one of 241 American high school students currently studying at Jewish National Fund-USA’s (JNF-USA) Alexander Muss High School in Israel (High School in Israel).
In April, JNF-USA chartered an EL AL Boeing 787 Dreamliner – dubbed “JNForce One” – to fly students from across the US to its world renowned High School in Israel – a feat made all the more difficult by a lack of flights and strict entry requirements
JNF-USA National Campaign Director Sharon Joy, who flew with the students, said: “Traveling with these teenagers gave me hope. I heard their excitement, their young and pure words of wisdom, and I felt such pride.” 
Like so many of the students at High School in Israel, Haber was looking for both an academic and experiential adventure like no other: “I decided to study in Israel because I wanted to experience the Israeli culture and I wanted an adventure. It is also a very unique experience, and Israel is such a pretty country. I hope to achieve an education and learn more about the history of Israel. I also hope I will make lifelong friends. I’m especially excited about traveling around the country with new people.”
And Haber’s exuberance seems justified. As High School in Israel’s Head of School, Dr. Mark Shinar explained, students will use the land of Israel as a living and breathing classroom.
“Together, we are studying 4,000 years of Jewish History as we utilize this amazing country as a living classroom. It was a huge achievement in flying our students to Israel and we are utilizing every opportunity while they’re with us to infuse within them a lifelong connection to the land and people of Israel.”
“We know that our students are so excited to be here, but we also know that they will leave forever changed, well poised to become Jewish leaders in their hometowns and in the world. This was made even more possible because of the incredible support and commitment shown by their parents and JNF-USA who have never once left our sides, despite the uncertainties of these past few months.”
The students’ charted flight to Israel was a culmination of Herculean efforts from JNF-USA to navigate Israel’s regulatory environment, working closely at the highest levels with relevant Israeli government ministries, health authorities, EL AL, and Ben Gurion Airport to gain special permission for the students to enter Israel.
KKL-JNF Israel Emissary Lieutenant Colonel Res. Zohar Vloski, and the leader of “Operation Zion” that helped the teens travel to Israel, said: “After so much uncertainty, it felt like we moved mountains to get to this point where we have hundreds of students returning to JNF-USA's High School in Israel to empower and to strengthen their Jewish Identity and their deep connection to Israel. I feel a great deal of gratitude to the Israeli Government, Keren Kayemet Le'Israel’s Education & Community Division, El Al, and the relevant authorities who helped make this journey back to Israel a reality.”
The current cohort of students at High School in Israel come from schools across the U.S. including public, private, and Jewish day schools. 
Milken Community School’s Head of School, Dr. Sarah Shulkind, was delighted to see the school’s students embark on such a unique adventure: “The core value of “Ahavat Israel”, or as we translate it - connecting to Israel and the Jewish People - has truly come to life this year,” said Shulkind. “It was harder than ever to get our students to Israel amidst the COVID pandemic, but the rewards have been all the sweeter because of it. Our students have been in quarantine, but their excitement to learn both inside and outside the classroom, is palpable. We know that so many of our students are forever changed because of the impression this program had on their lives. It deepens their ties to Israel, strengthens their pride in their Judaism and gives them the self-confidence to do bold things in the future, fulfilling our mission of educating our children so they can surpass us.” 
Milken Community School students prepare to welcome Shabbat. (Credit: JNF)Milken Community School students prepare to welcome Shabbat. (Credit: JNF)
San Diego Jewish Academy Head of School, Zvi Weiss was equally pleased to see the school’s student travel to Israel: “We are thrilled that SDJA seniors can be at JNF-USA’s High School in Israel this semester,” said Weiss. “Through High School in Israel, they are exploring and gaining a new appreciation for the rich, singular history of the Jewish people in the land, along with all the modern-day miracles and complexities of Israel that make it so special. Beyond this learning, High School in Israel is a unique and wonderful opportunity for personal growth and exploration during such a formative year in their lives. Our parents and all of the faculty love seeing pictures of our students traveling the country and engaging with all that Israel offers.” 
San Diego Jewish Academy students walk through the red canyons in Israel’s Negev Desert. (Credit: JNF)San Diego Jewish Academy students walk through the red canyons in Israel’s Negev Desert. (Credit: JNF)
Head of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School Rabbi Mitchel Malkus also shared his excitement about the student’s journey to Israel. “After a very challenging senior year with many disappointments and cancelations, the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School Class of 2021 finally left for their Irene and Daniel Simpkins Capstone Trip to Israel last month,” Malkus said. “The trip is the culmination of the seniors’ studies at CESJDS and offers them the unique opportunity to live in and experience Israel for eight weeks and fulfill the school’s mission of “Ahavat Yisrael”. The seniors and their families were eager to start this incredible journey and are excited and grateful to JNF-USA and High School in Israel for their hard work and support in making the trip possible during this once in a century pandemic.”
The excitement about studying in Israel also extends to the students. Zeke Ader, a High School in Israel Spring Semester student from Hingham, MA, said: “I decided to study in Israel because I want to get a deeper understanding of my Jewish roots, and there’s no better place to do that than in the Holy Land. At JNF-USA’s High School in Israel I hope to learn as much as I can about Israeli history and culture, and I also hope to develop lifetime friendships with Jews my age from all over the country as well as Israelis. In particular, I’m most excited about experiencing life in a new country. Plus, it’ll be a relief to be in country with low COVID rates. I’m also ecstatic about the Middle Eastern cuisine I’ll be eating every day!”
Mollie Dubner, a high school student from Chicago, has already made Israel her classroom: “Studying at High School in Israel is so different from any experience I have ever had, and I am learning so many new things every day, said Dubner”. “The other day, we woke up at 4 am to hike up Masada to see the sunrise. We made the top of the mountain our classroom for the day! As I walked through the ruins, learning about the people that had used the same mountain for refuge so many years before me, I could really visualize and understand just how much history was surrounding me. I cannot wait to see what the next 6 weeks of my semester will bring, and I am so grateful for each and every day with new friends and new adventures in this amazing place!”
When the students arrived at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport last month, they were greeted by High School in Israel madrichim (leaders) who oversaw the students’ wellbeing during their strict two-week quarantine period. As they left the airport bound for their once-in-a-lifetime adventure, Sharon Joy left the students with parting advice.
“I told them to trust their instincts and always be kind to one another as they embark on their journey exploring our homeland, embracing their Judaism, and having an experience of a lifetime and lots of fun along the way. I am filled with such pride as a Jewish National Fund USA Professional, a proud Israeli, and true Zionist.”
For more information about JNF-USA’s High School in Israel, visit To find out how prospective students can earn up to $7,500 towards their tuition, visit
Written in cooperation with JNF-USA.