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The Israeli Experience: My personal Journey

The Israeli Experience: My personal Journey

Never in my wildest dream, had I thought, I would visit the Holy Land, but as the saying goes, “Education opens many doors”.  One of the doors is the visit to Israel to partake in a course: offered by MASHAV: “Youth at Risk - Preventing Student Dropouts and Fostering Reintegration”. The desire to make a difference in the life of young people and the belief in giving second chances motivated me to sign up for the course. I had the full support of my principal and family to participate in this course. They recognized my commitment and enthusiasm to make a positive difference in my community and country.  Being a high school drop-out myself, was an even greater inspiration for me to try to empower myself, so that I in turn can help others. I believed that the course would enhance my knowledge and skills in this endeavor. The experiences exceeded my expectations because I also had a very spiritual experience. I did not have to concentrate on the intensity of the course, nor the long hours we had to put in to make the experience a success because of MASHAV’s inspiration and hospitality.

However, before I arrived in Israel, all sorts of thoughts entered my mind as I prepared for the new experience.  I had my own preconceptions about the country and its people.  Of course I did research about the country and tried to gather information from the few people I knew visited Israel. The information I gathered settled a few curiosities, but when I arrived in Israel May 12, I was more than surprised by the beauty of the land, the warmth and generosity of the people and their amazing culture.  It did not take long for me to settle down and be myself despite by body fighting to adjust to the time during most of the lectures. I will never forget the experience. It seems like yesterday.

Tikva, one of the participants from South Africa greeted me at the hotel. She was genuinely happy to meet me. She had been in Israel before and made me feel that I will not be alone. She even helped me carry my things to the room and got settled it.  She is such a beautiful person inside and out. Her kind gesture made me feel relaxed and excited to meet the other participants. In no time, I got to know almost everyone. My roommate arrived a couple days later. She and I got on very well.

During the course of the first week, we had our orientation of the course. We were introduced to information about the Israeli society and their education system. This theoretical part even though significant, did not captivate my attention as much as the first visit to ZIV High School in Jerusalem. This was an eye-opener that let me realize that even though the country is more developed than Belize, they shared much of the same challenges with the adolescence. 


As the weeks progressed, we shared our experiences and we visited more schools. I found that we had more things in common than things that made us different. The school issues were universal. The only differences were the way we perceived and addressed them. We learned the different approaches, techniques and methodologies the schools used to get the entire community to actively participate and to positively contribute to the young people’s educations. Schools like Kedma, Susan house and AHAVA, to name a few, had excellent and innovative approaches to education.

During our tours we got a first hand experience to journey some of the places Jesus walked. It was an emotional and an unexplainable experience for me as a Catholic Christian. The feeling one gets when you entered the holy places is beyond words. It was great to see first-hand the places mentioned in the Bible and to get the history of these places from two of Israel’s most brilliant tour guides, Yudith and Gaddi.  More astonishing was to see different Christians, Jews and Muslims worshiping peacefully in almost the same location with no animosity. After all, we worship the same God.

The most important thing this journey taught me was the power of collaboration. The more the community, parents, teachers, the Ministry of Education and all stakeholders in education work together,  they can transform the society by empowering the adolescence to guide them into creative and critical thinkers.  Secondly, it brings out the importance to believe and dream big, to have humility and to have perseverance. One person with one dream can impact a nation. It is like Chris Rice puts it in in his song, “Take your candle, go light your world.” I truly feel that this course has empowered me to share the knowledge I gained to make Belize a better place where the young people can have a better future. Thanks to MASHAV and UNESCO.

Written by:

Gaina Wagner
Participant of “Youth at Risk - Preventing Student Dropouts and Fostering Reintegration” training course at the A.Ofri International Training Center, MASHAV.