Naale Elite Academy celebrated 25 years since the end of its first academic year (1992-1993) with a big event, the Graduates’ Conference, at the Charles Bronfman Auditorium in Tel Aviv. The venue was filled with many smiling faces of graduates, educators and administrative staff.
Chaim Meyers, the Director of the Western World Region at Naale told us a little about the event and its significance, “We have a very special ceremony planned with performances, videos and many different things. Some graduates even flew in from abroad just for this special occasion. Here you’ll find people of all ages, backgrounds, from many different countries. It’s very moving to see.”
From the very beginning, Naale’s mission has been to bring Jewish high schoolers to Israel to get great free education, but more than that, to help young people envision their life in the Jewish State and to acquire the necessary skills and confidence to make Aliya.
The numbers are impressive: since the program’s establishment in 1992, over 17,000 students have participated with about 85% staying in Israel and 40% of the parents making Aliya as well. Indeed, Naale has come a long way since 1992, when the first group of Jewish students from the post-Soviet states landed in Ben Gurion to begin their Naale journey. Now, one third of students come from the Western World, and the other two thirds – from about 45 different countries around the world, mainly Russia and Ukraine.
As Abe Reichman has pointed out, laughing, “They said it couldn’t be done, ‘you would never be able to get people from America to come on Naale! Are you nuts?’.”
Hundreds of grateful graduates attended the event. Many of them recalled that the program had been challenging, but they all said it with a smile and a great sense of achievement, as Naale was their first step towards an independent successful future.
Ayala Rottenberg, a 2017 Naale graduate from Toronto, who now lives in Ramat Gan, says, “I came because I wanted to be in Israel. The secret of Naale is that you become part of a family. You gain friends for life, people who really care about you. It’s a community. And it’s really amazing that there are so many people who did it.” She then added, “Do it! It’s the most life-changing, amazing experience that you could ever have. My sister is coming next year for tenth grade!”
Chaya Ticker from Brooklyn NY, who graduated in 2011, recalls why she joined Naale back in 2008, “It was affordable and I wanted to live and go to school abroad, so it seemed like a great opportunity. I went for it, and my parents were great about it. It’s cool to know that I’ve been a part of the bigger picture, which has been happening for over 25 years.” Her message to the people considering Naale is, “Go for it. It’s worth it.”
“For me it’s about being an active part of bringing people here. I think that the students who come here want to be a part of Israel, and even those who come for other reasons, eventually become the greatest friends of the Jewish State”, said Rabbi Yossi Kahana, principal of Ulpanat Bnei Akiva Amana.
“This event is really exciting, as we get to see people we haven’t seen in a long time," said Yeshayahu Yechieli, the general director of Naale. "It all started in the former Soviet Union and we believed that if we succeed in the first 2 years, we’d take it all over the world and, Baruch Hashem, we are there!”
We’d like to wish Naale success and constant growth for many generations to come. After all, as long as there are Jewish communities outside of Israel, there will be a demand for a great educational program that has the power to connect Jewish youth to the their roots in Eretz Yisrael.