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The student news site of de Toledo High School

The Prowler

The student news site of de Toledo High School

The Prowler

Global Jewish Ed Program navigates ‘new normal’ in Israel

News Editor Isabelle Fonck and Israeli exchange student Yael (right) toured Universal Studios as part of dTHS Global Education Program this fall. As the war in Gaza continues, dates for future programs remain in flux.

ISRAEL–“We are studying at school normally, but every day we have an exercise where we have to run to the shelter like to exercise in case of alarm,” says Yael, a 15-year-old Israeli who lives in Ramat Gan, a city east of Tel Aviv. 

Since Hamas first attacked Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, Yael and every Israeli have had to adjust to a new normal. 

“People are more happy now that the hostages [have] been released,” she said.

Although some hostages have returned safely, there are still 138 Israeli hostages held by Hamas terrorists in Gaza. 

I spoke with Yael last week about how the Israel-Hamas war has affected her own life: “Things are coming back to normal,” she said, “but I need to ask my parents for permission if I want to go to a friend or things like this.”

Yael is one of the 12 Israelis who came to Los Angeles to visit in the fall. She stayed at my house from late August to mid-October. She was able to visit through Global Ed’s Extended Israel Exchange Program (EIEP). Through this program, not only did she stay with me for a month-and-a-half, but I’m supposed to go to Israel to live with Yael and her family for two to three months.

Eight other 10th graders from de Toledo are also planning to go to Israel with me.

In Israel, Scouts, or Tzofim, is the largest youth movement. Yael, along with many of her peers, participate in Scouts at least twice a week after school. “In the Scouts, they have divided us by age groups so we are not all together at the same time,” she said. While this is for safety, Scouts were divided by age group even pre-war. 

de Toledo’s Global Ed reach has grown immensely since it first started. During the first years of Global Ed, the focus was on programs in Israel: SIEP, the Short Israel Exchange Program that lasts two-and-a-half weeks, and the longer EIEP.

“Despite the war in Israel, we have pivoted and strengthened our programs with Israel, such as hosting Michael, Robotics mentor from Dimona; preparing to host displaced Israeli teens in February; and continuing our joint educational projects with our Israeli partner schools,” wrote Lior Sibony, Director of Global Jewish Education, in an email from Israel.

Global Ed emphasizes the Jewish value “Kol Yisrael areivim zeh bazeh–we’re all responsible for Jews around the world,” said Lior, as the students call him.

Israel is a small country, the size of New Jersey, with 9 million citizens. The war in Israel affects every family, not just ones living near the Gaza border, Lior said. Everyone in Israel knows at least one person in the army, he said, or has extended family who lives by the border. 

What does the war mean for both the SIEP and EIEP?

Global Ed prepares for different options, Lior said. “It’s all a dynamic situation,” but after winter break we’ll understand the “next stage” for both programs.

“We have postponed our SIEP and EIEP from February to April/May and hope to celebrate Israel’s Independence Day with our partner schools in Israel,” he wrote on Dec. 11 for this story.

The number of countries Global Jewish Education partners with has greatly expanded, with there now being programs in places like Budapest in central Europe; Uruguay in South America; Turkey, which highlights Jewish Life in a Muslim country; and Mexico City, with its big and vibrant Jewish community. 

Along with these exchange programs, there are other programs, like Spirulina, where students go to Uganda to harvest this superfood.

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About the Contributor
Isabelle Fonck
Isabelle Fonck, News Editor
Isabelle Fonck is a sophomore at de Toledo High School. When not at school, she likes to dance, hang out with friends, and shop. 

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