Israel, this tiny nation which lost their country for over 2,500 years, regained its statehood just over seventy-four years ago. Yet, it has transformed into a globally recognized hub of innovation and cutting-edge technology. What does education look like there? In this article, I will share my observations and experiences in Israel.

Language Training

Hebrew is the primary language in Israel, followed by Arabic. When we first arrived in Israel, even at the largest bank in Jerusalem, there were only one or two staff who understood English. Once, I asked an English-speaking bank employee for a business card, and he handed me a large envelope…a moment that truly surprised me!

As there’re many Aliyah immigrants from North America, Europe, Russia, South Africa, Ukraine and Lithuania etc. come to Israel, they don’t speak Hebrew! To address this, schools have dedicated language teachers to teach Hebrew to these newcomers.

The Israeli school year starts in September, but Jewish immigrants return to Israel in various months. Starting new courses every month is not practical. Hence, teachers provide individualized courses to new students, teaching them Hebrew at their own pace. This course is called “Ulpanit” in Hebrew.

During the initial school days, newly enrolled students study Hebrew for two to three lessons a day before returning to their regular classrooms. As they become more proficient in Hebrew and can communicate with classmates, they spend less time in “Ulpanit.” The teachers of this course often find that students appreciate it, as all the students are unfamiliar with Hebrew and can speak freely without pressure.

On the other hand, Israeli children start learning English in fourth grade and Arabic in sixth grade, after mastering their mother tongue. The gradual method of learning multiple languages appears to be quite effective!

Cultivation of Sports

Physical well-being of children is highly valued in Israel. Physical education classes are held at least once a week. For younger children, there’s usually a weekly swimming lesson in indoor pools, ensuring classes continue regardless of weather. Older children, who likely know how to swim, engage in outdoor water activities like canoe and windsurfing in the Sea of Galilee.

Within schools, physical education teachers organize simple yet physically demanding games. During breaks, children enjoy playing ball games on the grass or sports fields.

Extracurricular Activities in School

Learning a musical instrument is often expensive for those living in Hong Kong. However, Israeli schools allow students in grades three to five to learn a musical instrument for free. Moreover, students get to choose the instrument they want to learn, rather than having the teacher choose for them. While they may not fully grasp their talents yet, allowing them to choose their interests is better than others deciding for them. When the decision is their own, they bear the consequences, overcome challenges, and complete a year of learning before having the opportunity to choose another instrument.

Apart from music, students can choose from various extracurricular activities such as art, karate, chess, guitar, and percussion……etc.

Other Aspects of Education

In addition to the aforementioned educational features, Israel also commemorates various festivals with different activities. For example, the school week runs from Sunday to Thursday, so the last class on Thursday is usually followed by a simple ceremony in the classroom, symbolizing the beginning of the Sabbath. Children are educated about the importance of observing the Sabbath.

Another festival children enjoy is Purim. Students can dress in different costumes for the day, and each grade performs on stage. Some dance, some sing, and others perform plays.

These celebratory festivals fulfill a valuable role by aiding students in comprehending the history of their nation.

However, my children’s least preferred days are Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Holocaust Remembrance Day. The school environment becomes somber, with many photos displayed, and memorials for deceased soldiers who once studied at the school. Therefore, after a year of study, the children request to be excused from school on these two days.

To strengthen the Jewish people’s national identity, the Israeli Ministry of Education arranges for 12th-grade students to travel abroad at their own expense before graduation. The destination is the concentration camps in Poland. For students around the age of 16 or 17, leaving their country and traveling abroad might seem exciting.

However, upon returning to Israel and reflecting on the tragic history witnessed in Poland, their mood becomes heavy. Many students require psychological counseling after the trip.

For those of us who haven’t experienced the hardships of war, it’s challenging to fully understand these arrangements. We hope that the Israeli government enables its people to move forward, striving for the future while not forgetting the past, and teaches young people about the dangers of being without a country through education.

Though true peace has yet to be fully realized, let’s place our hope in God’s hands. Let’s bring love and peace to the people of Israel.