By Tayla Rosenthal
This experience is changing my life. This adventure is giving me a different outlook on the world. This semester is something I will NEVER forget. Fourteen weeks ago I embarked on a journey to spend a school semester in Israel with the program Heller High formally known as NFTY-EIE. Since arriving I have had the most incredible time and I still have another 1 more month in the beautiful country of Israel.
Heller High is based at Kibbutz Tzuba right outside of Jerusalem nestled in the Judean hills. The campus is beyond gorgeous with views of mountains as far as you can see which is something that I could never see while living in Florida. As well as our general study classes, we get to study Jewish History, as well as Hebrew. The teachers for these subjects are incredible and the small class sizes make it possible to be fully immersed in what I am learning. With the program I have been lucky enough to visit amazing places like Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Tzfat, Eilat, Masada, and The Negev to just name a few. Since arriving we have snorkeled, climbed sand dunes, hiked, swam in the Dead Sea, visited Yad Vashem, participated in the Jerusalem Marathon, gone on an archeological dig, and crawled through caves that Jews before us built. Part of the program also includes an eight day trip to Poland to learn about the Holocaust while visiting the towns Warsaw, Lublin, and Krakow. It was such an emotional and connecting trip as we got to walk in the footsteps and commemorate the Jewish people who were involved in the Holocaust. Following this trip we went on a 5 day hike called Yam L Yam (Sea to Sea) where we hiked during the day, cooked our own food, and slept in tents at night while moving from the Kinneret sea on the East of Israel to the Mediterranean Sea on the West of Israel. After this, we went to a four day IDF simulation called Gadna which was very inspirational as I got to see and learn about what it is like to be in the Israeli army and what some soldiers have to go through.
This is something I would recommend to anyone and everyone no matter what your interests are. There are so many different aspects you can take from this program that every single person here is having the time of their life. I am learning about the history of my Jewish culture, while making lifelong friends, and traveling around the country of my people.
Since 1961, thousands of teenagers have spent a semester in Israel on URJ Heller High (formerly NFTY-EIE), the Reform Movement’s most intense and powerful Jewish living and learning experience. Learn more at hellerhigh.org