Natan Gad, like many Jewish teens, found his place in Israel. At Naale, a free high school program in Israel, he has flourished academically, socially and culturally.

Natan Gad grew up on the beautiful island of Cozumel, Mexico. Surrounded by water, warm weather and blue skies – in a word, paradise. But as they say, the grass is always greener— or in Natan’s case, the ocean was bluer— on the other side.

While many of us dream of living his day-to-day life, or at least taking a vacation in it, Natan spent four years dreaming of life at Naale, a free high school program in Israel.

“The education offered at the schools on my island wasn’t what I was looking for, so in sixth grade, I started to research alternative options and that’s when I found out about Naale,” he recalled. “At the time, I wasn’t old enough to apply though, so for the next few years I chose to homeschool.” Natan confessed, “My homeschooling years weren’t the best years, but I surpassed them and now I really appreciate being here, at Mosenson Elite Academy.”

Natan, who arrived at Mosenson last year, has taken the opportunity that Naale offered him educationally, socially and culturally to soak in as much as he can each day. “It’s been a fun year plus I love learning about new things and feel like I’ve grown as a person in a short amount of time. I’ve learned a lot about myself and about other places in the world,” he added.

When asked if there’s anything he misses from home, he shared that aside from his parents and little sister, he does admit to missing his home’s sunny Caribbean days. “When I came here, I assumed the weather would be mild being that we’re in a desert, but it gets really cold at night and in the mornings. I guess I’ve been spoiled by tropical weather… it hits fifteen degrees and I’m like, OMG I’m freezing!” he jokes, “Of course my friends from Germany would laugh at me for saying that. For them, the same temperature is t-shirt and shorts weather.”

Naale students

Naale students

This good-humored example is one of the many nuances illustrated from going to school with people from such diverse backgrounds – another great contrast to his island life. Natan welcomes the contrast of being surrounded by people from all walks of life and all over the globe: “I love being surrounded by people all the time. Learning about the different cultures, languages, even the styles. It’s really eye-opening to see how different people are and yet we can all relate to each other on a human level.”

Natan’s even-keeled attitude to the challenges that come with living and learning so far from home is as heartwarming as you can imagine his hometown island is. “Speaking Hebrew is challenging. I understand a lot – much more than I expected to pick up in just a year, but speaking is hard,” he admitted. “English or Spanish are comfortable, homey. I can articulate what I think and feel – my English is like my fencing, accurate and exact, my Hebrew is like swinging a stick around in the dark hoping to land on the right word.” 

Like anything you want to master, from language to math and science to fencing, practice is key. At Naale, Natan and his peers have the opportunity to master the language and so much more that the Elite Academy’s in Israel has to offer – academically, socially and culturally. Students come to Naale from all around the world. Every year, approximately 80 students from the USA join the program.

We all have our own version of paradise. Like so many Jewish teens, Natan found his in Israel.