A Campus Like Home

Even Now, High School Students Choose to Study In Israel

A semester like no other

Debbie Paneth

Izzy Sussman (left), Bella Jenis (center), and Rae Mintz (right) in Israel
Izzy Sussman (left), Bella Jenis (center), and Rae Mintz (right) in Israel
June 20, 2024 | Summer 2024 |

After an abrupt end of the fall semester following October 7, the halls of Alexander Muss High School in Hod Hasharon are once again full of life. More than 100 American students have embarked on an Israel education experience, diving into the history and reality of life in Israel while undaunted by the difficulties posed by the ongoing conflict.

Sixteen-year-old Bella Jenis from New Jersey recalled, “The questions I was asked were constant. ‘Is it safe?’ ‘Why are you going during a war?’ ‘How are your parents allowing you to go?’ Despite everything, I embraced the opportunity and began the journey of a lifetime.”

For Bella’s parents, the benefits far outweighed any concerns, especially given the extraordinary safety measures that Muss has taken. “Bella is emerging with unparalleled resilience and a nuanced understanding of geopolitical complexities, gained firsthand,” said her mother, Beth Jenis. “For me, the profound takeaway lies in witnessing her transformation into an empathetic individual who navigates challenges with grace. Experiencing Israel during this time of conflict has given Bella an even greater sense of the strength of the nation and the importance of our homeland.”

As part of the curriculum, students have access to a variety of volunteer projects, allowing them to take an active role in supporting the people of Israel. The ongoing war has imbued these projects with an even greater sense of purpose than the typical semester.

“Gaining knowledge about Israel and its living history enhances understanding and appreciation of our Jewish and Zionist identities,” added Lisa Biton, Dean of Israel Studies. “Muss plays a crucial role in molding the students’ personal identities, both individually and as a part of the Jewish people.”

Lily Weinstein, a sophomore from Illinois, related, “Trip after trip, I have found myself falling more in love with this place. Not only do I feel better connected to the land of Israel, but Muss has also allowed me to learn my own history as a Jewish person and get to know my own origins.”

Living in Israel during the war has also resulted in an unprecedented level of solidarity with the country and its citizens. A visit to Hostages Square in front of the Tel Aviv Museum deepened the students’ understanding of the hardships faced by hostages in Gaza and the continuous suffering and struggle of their families.

“My experience was both inspirational and emotional,” said Amari Schneider, a sophomore from Tennessee, recalling her class’s visit to Hostages Square. “It is a public declaration that even in the darkest times, the human capacity for empathy and solidarity remains a beacon of hope, guiding us toward a more compassionate and inclusive society.”

For parents and students alike, the chance to be in Israel now is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, equipping them with a deep understanding of the nation’s resilience and a visceral connection to Israel that will never waver. Beth Jenis spoke for many when she said, “I could not be prouder to have my daughter in Israel at this time.”

Learn more about Alexander Muss High School in Israel at

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