Five SA youths settle in their Israeli schools

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South African teenagers are increasingly joining over 10 000 alumni of the Jewish Agency's Na'ele Elite Academy where they enjoy up to three years of free education and board. Meet the five new recruits who joined the programme for the first time this month. They study in English at first and change to Hebrew once they feel ready to. And, say the five new pupils and their parents, they are loving it!
by ANT KATZ | Sep 22, 2016

Five South African teenagers have set out to get the education of their lives - completing their last three or four years of high school in Israel and in English, at first. And, say the pupils and their parents, they are loving it!

Naale 16 main pic

RIGHT: Arriving in Israel are Joshua Bernitz, Gabriel Mervis, Livnat Katz, Bryce Livingston, and Sivan Kark, Pic: Chaym Meyers, Na’alea

Sivan Kark, one of the girls who is at The Mosenson Boarding School, says she enjoyed her first real taste of Israel over the weekend when she went on a day of exploration with some new friends and discovered at their local makolet (cafe) the most traditional of Israeli morning treats: shoko! She had heard of the ubiquitous shoko (a chocolate milk drink in a sachet) in South Africa.

The five South Africans were part of over 200 children from around the world who started their studies through a programme of the Jewish Agency for Israel (JA), which operates the Na’ale Elite Academy in partnership with its flagship South African office, the Israel Centre Johannesburg.

Kark, together with Joshua Bernitz, Bryce Livingston, Gabriel Mervis and Liel Egdes, were chaperoned to Israel by the Israel Centre’s Livnat Katz and now form part of an alumni of over 10 000 Jewish children worldwide who have studied through Na’ale, many of whom completed their matric (bagrut in Hebrew) under the JA-sponsored programme.

Considered a maths boffin in Israel!

The Na'ele learners are not chosen because they are the brainiest, but because they are "normal" learners who want to avail themselves of the opportunity to study in Israel.

So imagine the surprise of Lisa Mervis, mother of another of the five, who says her 15-year-old son, Gabriel, “feels like he has landed in the butter”. Na’ale learners mostly attend Morenson and other facilities, but Gabriel had been assessed in July by visiting Israeli clinical psychologists to have the ability to excel at engineering. He has been sent to Nahalal (Anières). The school is part of WIZO Nahalal Youth Agricultural Village.

Na'ale logoGabriel is enjoying taking photography as part of his art studies - the old-fashioned way, from the technical side of film cameras to developing photographs in a darkroom.

Calls twice a day

Back at Mosenson, Sivan Kark says she calls home twice a day, is very happy and fitting in. She is among the 50 per cent of Na’ale learners who are from English-speaking countries and her dormitory mate is British. They get on well.

“Sivan is glad she went,” says Wendy, mother of Sivan. “She has connected with so many friends: Italian, American, even a Columbian girl.”

The boarding school is planning a Succot trip to the desert for two or three nights with a visit to a waterpark on the way back.

Wendy says Sivan “loves the independence of the school uniform” - the children are provided with school-branded white T-shirts (and hoodies to wear over them in winter) and they can wear anything from jeans to skirts, earrings and jewellery. They can express themselves, within the rules, says Wendy.

Na'ele accommodates all religious streams

The Na’ale programme accommodates all streams of Judaism. So, while Mosenson is a secular school, there are also observant schools for boys and girls to enjoy kosher campus life.

Liel Egdes’ mother wanted to take her “baby” over herself. They couldn’t fly with the group and so the programme paid for Liel’s ticket. The programme offers free travel to Israel the first time, covers all school and boarding fees and even provides learners with pocket money, toiletries and second-hand clothing if they need. They also get two sets of linen.

Sochnut Israel CentreBut, switching from South African schooling to Israeli schooling is not as simple as it sounds. Back at Nahalal, Gabriel Mervis is working hard. His lack of Hebrew knowledge was no problem as he is studying in English at the moment and all Na’ale learners spend about 60 per cent of their week on ulpan studies at first.

But the standard of education is high and he needs to catch up as quickly as possible. The programme provides as much additional tutoring as he requires.

He also made friends from all over in his first two weeks, “like Brazil, Turkey and a very close English friend”, he told his mother. 

The Na’ele programme is managed in South Africa by the Israel Centre – both of which are subsidiaries of the Jewish Agency For Israel - for any further info contact the Israel Centre on 011 645-2574 

Related reads on this website

More information on Na’ale:

Sochnut JASA LOGOThe Jewish Agency For Israel is usually abbreviated to JA or JAFI, or, commonly in Hebrew "the Sochnut", Their main SA office operates under the name "The Israel Centre" which has offices in both Cape Town and Johannesburg and these act in co-ordination with Na'ale in South Africa. The function of the Jewish Agency is to promote Zionism in the Diaspora and absorb olim (immigrants) into Israel. It is headed by Natan Sharansky, the most famous Russian 'Refusenik' who was tasked with the absorption of a million Russians into what was then a population of a little over three million Israelis (Jewish, Christian and Muslim).

1 Comment

  1. 1 Choni 23 Sep
    Ant, This the best bit of news I've read for a long time.
    Baruch Hashem, the five becomes fifty and then five hundred and then five thousand.


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