A trip to the Na’ale Elite Academy at the Shaalvim campus close to Modi’in is always worthwhile and interesting. Having the opportunity to spend some time with and interview highly intelligent Jewish teenagers from around the world and understand their stories is a rare privilege.
Each of the students prefaced their remarks and observations with an acknowledgment that the school provides them with an awesome opportunity; to learn, to grow, to feel independent and to experience life in Israel. They also noted how there is a good energy, the creation of a peaceful environment with happy vibes.
So, what does a typical day at Shaalvim look like? Well, that depends on a student’s level of Hebrew and what grade they are in. For 16-year-old Akiva Jacobs, a native of Silver Spring, Maryland and former student at Yeshiva of Greater Washington in his first year at the school, it looks a little like this.
Akiva wakes up at approximately 6:30 a.m. and then gets prepared for Shaharit, which starts every day at 7:00. On a regular weekday when there is no kriyat ha’Torah, davening will usually conclude around 7:40 or 7:45. On Mondays, Thursdays and Rosh Chodesh, davening concludes at approximately 8:00 a.m. Lessons begin at 8:40, usually either Gemara or Hebrew. These are the main topics for morning studies, until 12:25 – when mincha begins. The students then get a 45-minute lunch break until 1:30 p.m., after which – depending on the day – they study general subjects, such as mathematics, history, geography and science. A 25-minute recess in the middle of the afternoon helps to break up the lessons, until the end of school, which is either at 5:30 or 6:40 p.m.
As well as their studies, students enjoy a range of activities, such as gym or cooking classes. They are permitted to use the general meeting place to play air hockey or table tennis and they meet at least twice a day with their student counselors to ensure that they have settled in and that any issues can be dealt with.
Between 10:30-10:40, their counselors come to collect their phones, which are then stored securely for them until the morning. After the phones are taken, there is time to shower and get into bed. At 11 p.m. the students turn in to bed and the big lights are turned out – although small night-stand lights are permitted if they wish to read.