Mira, from Maryland, USA, says that coming to school in Israel was definitely not part of her plan. But towards the end of her summer camp’s Israel trip, on a brief visit to Givat Haviva, she heard about a new international school: GHIS. Within days, she realized that it was the right place for her. During the trip, she felt her connection to Israel grow, and thought that GHIS would be the perfect place for her to learn more about Israel and the lives of all its diverse people, as well as to attend an IB school (which she was in at home). In a dramatic couple of weeks right before the school year started, in Israel and back in Maryland, she convinced her parents that this was the right move for her, made all the arrangements, and then, there she was, she was sitting in a classroom at GHIS! A decision she is still thankful for!
Currently: Mira is a sophomore in Tel Aviv in the dual-degree program between Tel Aviv University and Columbia University where she’s majoring in Middle Eastern studies with a concentration in Arabic and Hebrew.
Lessons learned: Mira’s takeaway from her two years at GHIS is that it’s not hard to care about–and love–each other. She was impressed that there were people from more than 20 countries with such different backgrounds (including from an upper middle-class background, like herself, and people who had been refugees), yet they sat with each other in class and did everything together. “I’d be shocked if there’s another place in the world where that’s the reality: where people from such different walks of life interact at the same level and deal with the same issues.” And they even have a mission: to improve the world!
Looking toward the future: It seems that Mira will be in school for a while, since after getting her bachelor’s degree she wants to get a degree in international law before returning to Israel, where she hopes to study Israeli law, and then go on to practice human rights law.
The GHIS impact: Mira says that when she started at GHIS, she lacked self-confidence and had struggled personally in the competitive environment of the magnet school she attended in Maryland. At GHIS, though, the teachers, who she says “are some of the most amazing people I have ever met” helped her gain self-confidence and believe that her voice should be heard. And there were opportunities for it to be heard! For example, she was involved in student government, where the principal would listen to student representatives and take their input seriously.
Learning to listen to each other: “GHIS felt like a cross-section of the world in almost every sense,” she says. Unlike her home environment, which she felt was homogenous, at GHIS she met “people whose thoughts were radically different from my own, forcing me to learn to appreciate people as themselves, as people, not as representations of their ideas and beliefs. But more than that, they forced me to challenge my idea of people and what it means to be a good person.” Surely, acknowledging differences didn’t keep these students apart, it brought them closer together!
GHIS friendships: Like so many of her peers, Mira talks about having made strong friendships at GHIS, which, for her, defined the school. Being in an international boarding school, where you need to rely on your friends, they became each other’s support system, one that they still turn to today, years after graduation.
Expanding knowledge: Mira says that GHIS made her “realize how much I didn’t know about the world. When you’re learning about the world in class and from your peers who come from all over the world–your worldview expands.”
Changing perspectives: At GHIS, she saw that you can have all kinds of people, including Israelis and Palestinians, living together. While at times it was peaceful and at others challenging, what was always powerful was that happened daily. She says that GHIS made her care about everyone–and her majoring in Middle East studies surely attests to that.
David joined GHIS because he was looking for the right educational establishment to develop personally and professionally. As soon as he heard about GHIS, he realized that it suits his values.
“As someone who has always been committed to coexistence in Israel, I see GHIS as a great vehicle to bring young people together in an accepting and non-prejudicial way.”
As well as being a teacher, David is also trained in special needs education at all school levels.
David holds a joint Honors B.Ed. in Special Education ages 6 to 21, and BA in Literature at Oranim College