Growing Up on a Kibbutz

     On 5 May, we celebrated Yom Ha’atzmaut – Israel Independence Day with a slide show presentation by our outgoing rabbinical intern, Josh Schreiber. Josh told of his growing up on Kibbutz Heftziba in the Jezreel Valley of Israel.

     Josh and his family moved to the Kibbutz in Israel when Josh was just entering elementary school and he lived there until he was in his mid-teens. Life on a socialist kibbutz in a foreign (from America) land with a foreign language (Hebrew) among native Israeli youths was a challenge for Josh and his siblings - Josh had to put up with constant bullying by the native Israeli youths on the kibbutz.

     Kibbutz Heftziba was located in a very beautiful part of Israel. Nearby were famous Mt. Gilboa, the major archaeological site at Beit She’an and the ruins of an ancient Hebrew synagogue at Beit Alpha.

     The stunning mosaic floor of the synagogue at Beit Alpha was discovered in 1929, when members of a nearby kibbutz were digging irrigation channels for their fields. Subsequent excavations exposed mosaics preserved intact for almost 1,500 years.

     Kibbutz Heftziba was both an agricultural kibbutz and an industrial kibbutz that manufactured various products. It tended to be run in the typical socialistic tradition of the early Israeli kibbutzim. Today, most of Israel’s kibbutzim are much less socialistic and incorporate more capitalistic features.

     Following the highly interesting and informative presentation, the attendees enjoyed coffee and pastry and the chance to talk with Josh about the presentation.

Josh Schreiber Presentation

Kibbutz Heftziba

     Kibbutz Heftziba is located in the north of Israel on the boundaries of the Jezreel and Beit She’an Valleys between the cities of Afula and Beit She’an. The Beit Alfa Synagogue National Park is located in the Kibbutz Heftziba.

     The kibbutz was founded in 1922 by Jewish immigrants from Czechoslovakia and Germany. It was named after the farm adjacent to Hadera, where the original settlers worked before they relocated and founded the community. The name derives from the Bible, where God speaks about his love for Israel: "My delight in her." (Isaiah 62:4)

     According to a census conducted in 1922 by the British Mandate authorities, Heftziba had a population of 125 inhabitants, consisting of 123 Jews and 2 Muslims.

     The Beth Alpha Synagogue National Park is located in the kibbutz, not, as many assume, at the adjacent kibbutz with the same name, Beit Alfa. It contains an ancient Byzantine-era synagogue with a mosaic floor depicting the lunar Hebrew months as they correspond to the signs of the zodiac. The synagogue as well as the nearby kibbutz got their name from the Arab village that once stood here, Khirbet Bait Ilfa.

     Kibbutz Heftziba lies a the base of Mount Gilboa with its 11 peaks and lots of picnic spots. The view from the top of Mount Gilboa is amazing. From there, you can see the whole Jezreel Valley, and you take a short hike on the mountain paths where King Saul and his son Jonathan died in the biblical battle with the Philistines.

     The Japanese Gardens in Kibbutz Heftziba were established by the Makuya students who were sent to Israeli kibbutzim to work together with Israelis and to study Hebrew and the biblical background. Some of them have continued their academic studies in Israel’s universities. The primary kibbutz the Makuya students stay at is in Heftziba.

Kibbutz Hefziba

A Bit of Israel – The IDC

The Interdisciplinary Center - abbreviated IDC - is located in Herzliya, a short 6-mile drive north of Tel Aviv. It has been renamed the Reichman University in honor of Professor Uriel Reichman, the founder and current president of the university. It is a private, not-for-profit, and nonsectarian, research college, founded in 1994. It was envisioned and inspired by the model of the Ivy League. It was recognized by the Council for Higher Education in Israel as a university in August 2021. It is Israel's first and only private university - the rest of Israel's universities are all public. It grants undergraduate degrees, post-graduate degrees, and PhD degrees. It receives no direct Israeli government funding.

The IDC has 8,000 students enrolled for undergraduate and graduate degrees, including 2,000 international students from 86 countries, about 36% of whom are from Europe and 31% of whom are from North America.

In 2014, IDC law graduates achieved the highest passing rate at the national bar examination of all Israeli academic institutions. Moreover, the IDC ranked first of 66 Israeli academic institutions in terms of student satisfaction for four consecutive years. In addition, it has been the only academic institution in the world that has won the international Jean Pictet International Humanitarian Law competition, organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross, in consecutive years, winning it twice, in 2010 and 2011. In 2014 IDC was ranked the most successful academic start-up institution outside of the United States, ranking 1st in Israel and 21st in the world. In the same year IDC law graduates achieved the highest passing rate at the national bar examination of all Israeli academic institutions. Moreover, IDC has been ranked first among 66 Israeli academic institutions in terms of student satisfaction for four consecutive years.

IDC offers degrees in law, business, government, computer science, communications, economics and psychology. It is also home to 23 research institutes and centers. For several years, IDC hosted the annual Herzliya Conference, which articulates Israel’s national policy by its most prominent leaders, including the Israeli President, the Prime Minister, the IDF Chief of General Staff, and the leading contenders for high political office. It has also hosted the World Summit on Counterterrorism for several years.

The interdisciplinary nature of the college means that students are expected to be engaged in more than one main course of study and that they must combine the theoretical or academic with the practical.

Some 75% of the IDC students are on a Hebrew track (courses are taught in Hebrew) and the other 25% on an English track (courses are taught in English). Tuition was $12,000 per year – very low by American standards, but high by Israeli standards. 20% of the students received scholarships. Many students were on internships, similar to co-op programs, which provide on-the-job training and experience. The Israeli students tended to be 2, 3 or more years older than their American counterparts, because of their prior army service and/or their having taken a year off for foreign travel. Preferential treatment was given to Israeli soldiers and former Israeli soldiers.

IDC has tended to ignore college entrance exam scores and focus instead of enrolling students that show skills, aptitudes and promise during their IDF service. Some 30% of IDC students were serving in the IDF reserves. Whenever these reservists were called up, IDC made accommodations for them, e.g., rescheduling exams, providing special tutoring, etc.

IDC Herzliya provides a home and a supportive environment for students who leave their families and move to Israel to serve in the IDF as lone soldiers. Recently, more than 300 former lone soldiers had studied at the IDC, while over 150 IDC graduates were serving in the IDF.

As well as IDC’s assistance to lone soldiers, the Brian Knez Center for the Welfare of IDF Reserve Soldiers, a special department in the IDC Student Union, is dedicated to assisting students doing reserve military duty and protecting their rights. In addition, IDC’s Admissions Department gives preference to soldiers who served in elite units or as officers, in recognition of their contributions to the state.

In 2021, 2,200 students from 90 countries, including a student from the United Arab Emirates, were enrolled in IDC’s English language Bachelor’s degree in Government. This was among the total student body of 8,300 who were pursuing degree programs in business, economy, law, computer sciences, government and communications, among other subjects.

Until recently, there was no on-campus housing at IDC – that has changed. IDC students now have the option of enjoying the high standard of living offered in 500 new, fully equipped residential units located in two 13-story towers on the IDC campus.

The dormitory towers were planned and designed to meet green building standards, along with all of the students’ needs. Every floor has study areas to enable students to focus on their studies and to maintain a varied social life. The apartments are available to international and Israeli students pursuing undergraduate and master's degrees. The dorms include apartments for single students, married couples (both IDC students) and accessible units for students with disabilities.

Most recently, it was announced that IDC will build the country's first private medical school, in addition to the six public medical schools that currently exist in the country.


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