My name is Rachel Binderman and I am a junior on a High School program called Alexander Muss High School in Israel. At the beginning of my sophomore year I decided to sign up for AMHSI. When COVID struck I was worried that the program would not continue, but thankfully it worked out and I am now sitting in the land of Israel. Right now is a crazy time to be traveling anywhere, especially across the world. Although there are many uncertainties while traveling I felt that going to Israel was still the best decision I could have made. The fact that JumpSpark helped me get here is even more special because it has been a huge part of my high school experience through the Strong Women Fellowship. I have gotten to take the skills I learned from them to Israel with me.
When I first decided to go to Israel it was because I have always felt a deep connection to my Jewish identity, but not Israel. I came in search of a deeper connection to the land my ancestors once struggled to keep and treasured so dearly. When I settled on going on AMHSI I knew this was the right program for me. It gives me the experience to learn about the land in an interactive way and meet Jewish teens from around the world with many of the same interests as me.
When I first got to AMHSI I was in quarantine, or bidud in Hebrew, for 2 weeks. It was scary going into it knowing that I would be stuck in a room with strangers for 2 weeks. The first day was rough but by the second day these 3 girls became some of my best friends. We had many online classes learning about Israeli culture through art, music, and movies. Even in quarantine we were always busy with fun activities. I already felt the power that Israel has even though I was unable to leave the campus.
The day that we got out of bidud we were already off to our first trip (tiyul). We stayed at a kibbutz and during the 3 days that we were there we went hiking on Mount Gilboa, went to natural springs, and the beach. After this trip the country went on lockdown so we were stuck on campus but even that was amazing. We learned about Israel and had fun activities planned by our teachers and madrichim. We got close at the program during this time and even were able to get special permission to travel. We got to go on special volunteering trips at farms around Israel to help the farmers in need. After about 3 weeks lockdown started to ease up and we were able to go back on tiyulim.
We have been on many tiyulim since then and each one gets better and better. We learn about the history of Israel and the Jewish people while also having fun with our friends. I am so privileged to be able to travel around a country half way across the world during this time of uncertainty and I am grateful for every second. We have been to the North, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and small cities in between and I can not wait to keep exploring this beautiful land. I am so grateful for my experience here so far and I hope other high school students consider applying for this amazing program.