My experience at High School in Israel | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

My experience at High School in Israel


“Oh she’s having a blast in Israel!” my mom said about my older cousin, who was well into her semester of High School in Israel.

I was 11 and didn’t have much of an idea about what Israel was like, let alone what being Jewish was all about. That was the first time I heard of High School in Israel, but it was not my last. I soon learned that my oldest brother Max would spend a semester in High School in Israel, as well.

The mention of this program was something weird, yet exciting. Later that year, I traveled to Israel for the first time. It was an incredible and exciting experience, and I was grateful. My family often asked me, “Do you think you will go to Israel like your brother?” I admit, at first I was apprehensive. The thought of leaving home for four months to participate in High School in Israel was like skydiving: thrilling, but incredibly terrifying. Since I knew the change of pace from my school at home would benefit me, I made the decision to participate.

High School in Israel was anything but ordinary. I learned so much about my history as a Jew, how it has contributed to the brave nature of the Jewish people, and the beautiful, complex and colorful land called Israel. While falling in love with the land, I learned about myself. From the moment I arrived, I questioned my view of Israel, Judaism and being a Reform Jew in the United States.

Through High School in Israel, I tested my limits and discovered a new version of myself. It has felt like every experience on this trip helped me grow as a tree from the roots up, getting stronger by the second. I have also become incredibly passionate about the things I believe in, and I feel so alive.

The smallest experiences have left the most amazing impact that I think about now when I am home, missing High School in Israel. One particular moment that resonated with me was at the end of our sea-to-sea hike. We hiked from the Sea of Galilee to the Mediterranean Sea. In front of me, I saw pure and beautiful green, while in the distance were ruins from almost a thousand years ago that seemed to perfectly fit in with the trees. There was something about it that was so bold. As I stood up, exhausted and sweaty, I felt utter peace. I looked back at all my experiences and soaked them in.

I truly believe that my time on High School in Israel  will stick with me for the rest of my life, and I hope I will carry what I learned to improve myself and those around me. I will forever remember the cool Jerusalem stone, the hustle and bustle of Tel Aviv, and the exciting aromatic smell of the shuk in my nose.

Ellie Bogost, 17, a student at Madison’s James Madison Memorial High School, participated in the High School in Israel Eisendrath Educational Experience (EIE) of the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY).

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About the program

NFTY-EIE High School in Israel is an accredited semester or summer-long program for Jewish high school students in grades 10 to 12, sponsored by the Union for Reform Judaism. Last spring, Ellie Bogost of Madison participated in the program.