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A trip to the holy land

A peek into sophomore Joe Rosenberg’s Israel adventure

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A trip to the holy land

Smiling with friends, sophomore Joe Rosenberg participates in a 5-day hike across the Northern part of Israel. Rosenberg, alongside other students in the Heller High program, slept outside and self-navigated for the entire duration of their journey. “On the last day, I happened to flip over my bike and gash my hands so I got to ride in a medic car all the way to the Mediterranean Sea,” Rosenberg said.

Smiling with friends, sophomore Joe Rosenberg participates in a 5-day hike across the Northern part of Israel. Rosenberg, alongside other students in the Heller High program, slept outside and self-navigated for the entire duration of their journey. “On the last day, I happened to flip over my bike and gash my hands so I got to ride in a medic car all the way to the Mediterranean Sea,” Rosenberg said.

Courtesy of Joe Rosenberg

Smiling with friends, sophomore Joe Rosenberg participates in a 5-day hike across the Northern part of Israel. Rosenberg, alongside other students in the Heller High program, slept outside and self-navigated for the entire duration of their journey. “On the last day, I happened to flip over my bike and gash my hands so I got to ride in a medic car all the way to the Mediterranean Sea,” Rosenberg said.

Courtesy of Joe Rosenberg

Courtesy of Joe Rosenberg

Smiling with friends, sophomore Joe Rosenberg participates in a 5-day hike across the Northern part of Israel. Rosenberg, alongside other students in the Heller High program, slept outside and self-navigated for the entire duration of their journey. “On the last day, I happened to flip over my bike and gash my hands so I got to ride in a medic car all the way to the Mediterranean Sea,” Rosenberg said.

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Saying his goodbyes, sophomore Joe Rosenberg boards the plane at JFK airport to fly 12 hours halfway across the world.

“I decided to come on this program [NFTY Heller High] to connect and learn more about Israel. As a reform Jew in America, there is a lot of emphasis on Israel education, so I thought ‘what better way to learn about Israel than living here for four months.’ Also, I had visited Israel before and I fell in love with it, so it was a no-brainer to study there,” Rosenberg said.

Heller High’s mission is to immerse students in the land, culture, people and history of Israel, all while earning high school credit.

“It’s essentially an American high school, but it’s in Israel. I continued the studies I would’ve been doing in America. On top of that, I also learned Hebrew and Jewish history. I traveled around Israel to learn about Jewish history in the locations where it actually happened and to experience the land,” Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg was one of 27 students from around the world accepted into this four-month program. Participants had to be enrolled in grades 10-12 and be of the Jewish faith.

“I was in Israel for four months total. I left Aug. 27 and I got back to St. Louis Dec. 27. I now have a lot of independence since I was living on my own for so long, but that means I also have a lot of responsibility with taking care of myself. Now that I’m home, life is going to be a little easier in terms of responsibility, but I’ll miss having complete independence,” Rosenberg said.

Courtesy of Joe Rosenberg
Posing in Israel Defense Forces uniforms, sophomore Joe Rosenberg and other Heller High program members experience the life of typical Israeli teenagers post-high school.

One of Joe’s favorite experiences was participating in גדנ״ע (Gadna).

Gadna is basically IDF [Israel Defense Forces] boot camp for a week. It was pretty cool to experience being a part of a Jewish army protecting the Jewish state. We spent the mornings with our צוות (group) learning about the IDF. One of the days we started by learning about and then shooting M-16’s, which was pretty insane. There was a lot of running around while the commander yelled in Hebrew. The whole week was designed for Israeli teens to show us what the army is like, so it was pretty cool to get to experience what every person in Israel goes through after high school,” Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg also enjoyed a five-day hike across Israel from the Sea of Galilee to the Mediterranean Sea called ״ים לים״ (yam l’yam, sea to sea).

“The hike was across the Northern part of Israel. We slept outside for all of the nights, whether it be in hammocks or just under the stars. We climbed a mountain on one of the days, waded through a creek/stream, and had to self-navigate for a lot of the hike,” Rosenberg said. “On the last day, we rode bikes down Mount Meron all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. The North of Israel has a lot of mountains, trees and little streams, so there were a lot of vivid colors all over the place.”

Rosenberg not only learned about the culture and taking on new experiences, but was also able to explore the natural beauty of the country.

Israel has pretty much everything imaginable in terms of natural beauty. Southern Israel is made up of the Negev and the Judean Deserts. There are mountains everywhere. In the south there is also the Dead and the Red seas, which are really striking compared to all the desert. The water is bluer than blue. Up north there are forests and even more mountains. There are tons of little streams everywhere that wind their way across the country. The West is a very flat coastal plain,” Rosenberg said. “The beaches of the Mediterranean are some of the most beautiful in the world. The natural beauty of Israel is stunning, so spending time there was an amazing experience.”

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