Back to School: Israeli academy a melting pot for international students

Aviv Gadi grew up in Los Angeles, but the more she visited her parents’ homeland of Israel, the more attached she became.  So when she was offered a scholarship to Naale Elite Academy, a boarding school in the Jewish state, she jumped at the chance.

Gadi recently completed her junior year at the Hod Hasharon campus, and will be entering her senior year in the fall. She attended Jewish day school in Los Angeles and her first few years of high school at an L.A. public school.

Naale Elite Academy is a three-year program for Jewish teen-agers who choose to come to Israel to complete high school and earn an Israeli matriculation certificate, which is accepted internationally. Naale enables young Jews to study at the selective, top-quality school while learning to become independent, self-sufficient and resilient — all in the international melting pot that is Israel.

Aviv Gadi

The program was established in 1992 as a joint initiative of the prime minister’s office and the education ministry. Its mission is to enable Jewish high school students worldwide to study and finish high school in Israel. To date, more than 20,000 students from the United States, Europe, the former Soviet Union, South America, and other parts of the world have been given the opportunity to attend the school through a three-year scholarship program co-funded by the State of Israel (the Israeli Ministry of Education) and the Jewish Agency for Israel.

Naale Elite Academy has four schools that cater to English-speakers: They range from a coeducational secular program, to Orthodox (there are separate schools for boys and girls), to ultra-Orthodox (haredi).

Attending high school in Israel has definite advantages, administrators say.

Living three years on their own in another country — “managing their own time, their own money, their own lives” — helps students become independent and more mature,. and gives them confidence that they can “control their own lives,” says Chaim Meyers, coordinator of the Naale Elite Academy program at Mosenson. “And their parents feel the same thing. They see the differences in their children.

“Even after one year, many of the parents say they don’t know their child — and this is meant in a positive way,” he says.

Aviv Gadi’s Israeli parents moved to Los Angeles about 25 years ago. As the family visited Israel regularly, youngster grew more and more attached to the possibility of a life here.

“I really love Israel,” Gadi says. “I don’t regret coming here at all. When I first arrived, I didn’t know a single person, but I’ve met so many people. Being in a new and different environment is challenging. You don’t have your parents around. All of a sudden you’re all grown up and you have to manage yourself.

“It was really tough in the beginning and I still miss home, but I eventually realized this was where I wanted to be and I’m really happy with my decision.”

Lorine Chajet of Germany loves the fact that half the students are foreign and half are Israelis. “We have met so many new people from all over the world,” she says. “My friends are from the Philippines, America, Canada, Australia, South Africa …  everywhere. I love living here, being a part of Israel. It’s fun. You can’t even compare it. And I feel more comfortable being Jewish here.”

Students must live in the dormitory during the school week, but may choose to visit family and friends on the weekends. Arrangements are made for those who do not have family with whom to spend Shabbat and holidays. A bilingual host family from the nearby community is assigned to all students to provide them with moral support and home-away-from-home hospitality.

For more information, visit or email development director Ofer Dahan at