Ayanot Elite Academy, one of Naale’s free high school programs in Israel, receives high praise from its students, who are thrilled to be in such a welcoming environment and receiving a top education enriched with Jewish values.
Imagine it: green grounds, bunnies hopping about and a pony roaming around – where are you? The inside of a storybook? While that certainly could be the case, but it’s actually the grounds of Ayanot Elite Academy, one of Naale’s free high school programs in Israel.
Ayanot Youth Village is a high school located near Ness Ziona where the education is as magical as its enchanted environment.
“Ayanot is full of people who enjoy being here, the staff and the kids,” said Noam Sheffer, Head of Ayanot Youth Village.
After speaking with a number of students on the Naale program, it’s clear that Sheffer’s sentiment holds true. “Life here is chaim tutim” says Sinai Malca, a Hebrew expression meaning “the sweet life.”
Sinai is an 11th-grade student from Staten Island, NY, who aside from missing her family, is beyond excited about her life and studies in Israel. “I know it sounds unreal, but there’s literally nothing I’m unhappy about here, well except missing my baby brother,” she said. “I love living on campus with my friends, the teachers are awesome and everyone here is warm, welcoming and respectful of each other.”
The aspect of mutual respect came up almost as often as the student’s appreciation for an education infused with agriculture and creativity.
Liam Smokey, who grew up in a small Jewish community in Birmingham, Alabama, explains how along with the creative outlets offered, he was drawn to the school’s unique ability to hold a space which encompasses a variety of personalities, cultures, observance levels and educational tracks.
“After a Jewish day school, there was really nowhere for me to continue Jewish studies back home,” he shared. “My options were a boarding school in Memphis, Tennessee, or one of the Naale schools.” Considering what Naale offers, a free quality education in Israel, Liam’s choice was an easy one. The next step was choosing which of the many Naale tracks to attend.
“I’m observant, so it was important to me and my parents that I be able to stick to my upbringing,” Liam explained, adding that while there are religious schools in the Naale network to choose from, he was intrigued when he saw what Ayanot offered. “After speaking to the staff here, I felt confident that my lifestyle and observance would be accepted, and it turns out there are a few of us that have the same values, and everyone here really is respectful of each other.”
Liam concluded, “I’m really glad I came here. I love math and science and all that but I also take classes in martial arts, ceramics and survival skills. Right now we’re learning about edible plants and first aid. It’s really interesting!”
Talia Kadmon, an 11th grade student from Germany, echoes a similar feeling that extends to the staff and counselors: “It can take a little time to realize, but it’s important for us as students to recognize that the staff is looking out for our best interest and be respectful of what they do for us – we’re all here with the same goal.”
Karen Biton, the Naale coordinator at Ayanot, describes the inspiration she gets from witnessing that goal come to fruition. “It’s amazing the see our students transform into independent young adults, able to manage their day, their studies and their future,” she said.
At Ayanot Elite Academy, life truly is sweet, for the parents as well. With the assurance that their children are supported and well cared for by a dedicated staff, receiving a quality Jewish education, connecting to their roots and growing into responsible young men and women, what else could they hope for? Affordability, you say? How about FREE … with Naale you get that too. Now that’s a sweet deal!