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One of our hikes in the Golan Heights

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Singing songs at Bedouin village

Isanne and Maya Goldberg: Our Experience in Israel on the Alexander Muss High School Program

By Isanne and Maya Goldberg, November 19, 2014








This past April, we had the opportunity to spend one week in Poland followed by seven weeks in Israel on a program called Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI).  The mission of the program is to create bonds between students, through learning and experiencing the history and culture of Israel. 








A typical week was usually split up between days of staying on campus learning or using the country as an outdoor classroom.  On days where we were at school, our mornings would consist of intensive Jewish and Israeli history studies followed by an afternoon of general studies classes.  On tiyul days, we traveled to various places throughout the country in chronological order of where they appear in history and learned about the events that took place in each setting.







One of the most memorable tiyulim we went on was to the Golan Heights.  We woke up at 5:30 am, the usual wake up time for tiyulim.  After a long bus ride of sleeping and learning interesting, random facts about Israel, we arrived at a building close to the border with Syria.  We spoke with a man who had strong opinions on the Israeli -Arab conflict.  We had the opportunity to ask him questions on his attitude towards living close to an Arab country. 


We asked him why he kept living in such a dangerous area of Israel, and he replied by saying that the borders are set by the people and if people leave, the borders will shift with them.  If people moved, we are surrendering the land, so why should he move and expect other people to stay and do his job for him. 




We also went on a hike that day.  Hiking was always a nice way to give us breaks from studying, and also a nice way to see parts of Israel that you would not see on a tour or travelling on your own.  We spent the night on a kibbutz where we had the opportunity to listen to Zigi, a retired member of the Tzahal.  He told us his experience in the war of 1967 where they had to get to the Western Wall in order to capture Jerusalem.  He was one of the first soldiers there. 






Aside from tiyulim, Shabbat was also a very exciting time during our time in Israel.  Every weekend, we had different options as to how we could spend our Shabbat.  Most weekends, we were given the option of visiting family and friends.  It was nice to have the freedom of being able to learn how to travel by ourselves across the country and practice our Hebrew as we maneuvered through the train system. 




The weekends that we were not given the option to leave by ourselves, there were always fun activities planned for us such as sleeping in a Bedouin Village and Shabbat in Israel. 




One weekend was spent with our two Israeli madrichim.  They put together one of the most memorable Shabbats that any of us had ever experienced filled with Bedouin culture, reflection, and relaxation. 


We practiced making coffee.  We were all shocked as we took our first gulps and realized it tasted nothing like Starbucks coffee.  Learning and singing Shabbat songs outside, accompanied by guitar, followed the surprising beverage. 





Our evening activity started off by forming a train of people led by our madrichim.  Our eyes were closed and the only concept of direction we had was from holding onto the shoulders of the person ahead of us.  After a long walk, not knowing where our madrichim were leading us, we found ourselves lying down in the middle of the desert; we opened our eyes and all we saw all around us was a clear sky filled with stars.  Here we reflected upon our time in Israel and took the time to appreciate where we were and the experiences we participated in. 





Approaching the end of our stay in Israel, we had a cultural Shabbat, which many of us had never had before-Shabbat in Jerusalem. 




On Friday night, we went to the Western Wall, where we danced and sang with other Jewish women.  The next day, we had the choice of going to a reform, conservative or orthodox synagogue.  We both chose to go to an orthodox service.  We expected to be lost in the service, not understanding what was going on.  However, others around us made sure we could follow along with the prayers and participate like everyone else. 




The endless amounts of energy given off by each person in the synagogue made the service enjoyable even for those of us who do not go to synagogue on regular occasion. 





AMHSI was like no other experience we had ever had before.  It gave us the chance to not only see Israel but to learn why the country is the place that it is today. 


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