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Walworth Barbour American International School In Israel School Logo
Walworth Barbour American International School in Israel Logo
Walworth Barbour American International School in Israel Logo

Our Story

1957-1959

The American International School in Israel began as the idea of several Foreign Service wives in 1957 who spent most of the year trying to come up with a “child friendly” program for their children closer to their home.  When they couldn’t find one, they decided to start their own school.  By the following fall of 1958, they received approval to hire an American teacher, ordered books from the U.S., and rented a room behind the “gan” in Kfar Shmaryahu for eight children, where they stayed for one year, before moving to the Kfar Shmaryahu Community Center.   By the following year, they had 22 students and had hired two additional teachers and had 50 students enrolled for the fall of 1959.

1960's: Our first real campus

The school in Kfar Shmaryahu was built on property that was purchased with the help of then US Ambassador Walworth Barbour in 1963.

1960's: Campus Dedication

When the modern campus' new library was dedicated years later, Defence Minister Moshe Dayan was the guest speaker. 

1970: Prime Minister Golda Meir speaks at graduation

At one of the first high school graduations, in 1970, Prime Minister of Israel Golda Meir was the commencement speaker.  Many famous Israeli, American and other international politicians, diplomats, and citizens have visited the school throughout the years.

1973: Hockey Marathon is born

The most longstanding tradition at WBAIS is Hockey Marathon.  Started in 1973 by PE Teacher Ran Gonen, it became a beloved event that was nurtured and expanded upon by Elise Hakimi and Ed Tatko.  In earlier incarnations, it lasted 36 straight hours.  The high school was divided into red and blue teams and some teams played while others relaxed, socialized or slept. Opening ceremonies are always attended by the entire school and alums come back to reminisce--and to play!

The HM tradition has continued under the guidance of Doron Kramer and the PE Department and though we missed 2 years because of COVID-19, Hockey Marathon came roaring back in 2022 to the delight of the whole community.

1979-1982: WBAIS in the Negev

As part of the Israeli/Egyptian Peace Treaty, the United States built an air base in Uvda, about 40 miles north of Eilat.  For the American firms working on the project, a K-12 school was required for 20-30 children.

We set up and operated the school with a small staff of very flexible teachers and three trailer classrooms.

1978: Welcoming Iranian refugees

 

When Ardy Khazaei came to AIS in 1978, he was twelve years old and had fled his home in Iran with his family on the eve of the Islamic Revolution. Khazaei was one of almost 200 Iranian students who arrived to the school at the brink of the historical upheaval.

Due to the influx of Iranian refugees into Israel and particularly the school, the student population of AIS almost doubled in size, almost overnight. And overtime, AIS became a place of safety, security, and shelter for children and families whose lives had been abruptly uprooted. 

Pictured here: Ardy Khazaei at age 17 at graduation, with legendary HS counselor Ed Tatko, and Rosa Khazaei, Ardy's mother, who served as a Persian-English translator for these refugee families.

 

1983: the Apollonia Dig

Apollonia was founded by the Phoenicians in the 6th century BC and inhabited continuously through the period of the Crusaders, In 1982, Apollonia (which attracted interest as an archeological site since the 1950’s) became an academic project of Tel Aviv University’s Institute of Archaeology.   

After being approached by a professor involved in the project, WBAIS allowed its students to take part in the dig for several seasons.  Looking back, former superintendent Forrest Broman said: "Over the years of digging in Apollonia, we found lots of pottery, several bags of Byzantine period coins, and some columns. "

In 2002 Apollonia National Park was opened to the public.

1987: Cornerstone laid for new HS building

As the school grew, so did the need for more space.  In 1987, the new high school wing was inaugurated. 

One of the seniors that year wrote in the yearbook (whose theme was Cornerstone): "A new school... requires some patience before yielding good results. But it's been worth the trouble. ... The classrooms are heated and cooled silently... the desks are big and comfy.  The labs are quite beautiful, and the computer room is impressive in and of itself. Altogether, a wing we can be pretty proud of."

1988: New initiatives

Two new traditions began in 1988.  The Goode Times was the first student led school newspaper.  The staff broke new ground, trying computer and desktop publishing technologies that had not been used previously at AIS. 

This issue highlights "US Elections AIS Style" with students taking on the roles of the Republican nominee, Vice President George H. W. Bush and the Democratic nominee, Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts. With a full entourage of secret service men, they campaigned and debated and finally the student body voted.  The HS History department continued to bring the electoral process to life every four years from then on.

 

1991: School during the Gulf War

"It is March 1991... the Gulf war has hit all of us very hard…AIS closed its doors as a precautionary measure on January 15, 1991: Already many of our students had left the country with their families, in most cases under orders from the embassies or firms where their parents work. The first Scuds hit Israel on the night of January 16, with virtually no warning in the Tel Aviv area. Huddled in our sealed rooms, we all heard a series of loud explosions as the Scuds landed, following which the sirens started blaring throughout the country. 

Even though the Scud attacks continued, on February 4 AIS reopened with only 100 students here out of the 470 who had been with us in December. Even some of the kindergarten children returned and every student and teacher carried a gas mask throughout the day.

Through all of this our students and teachers who had left the country suffered a sense of dislocation and uneasiness at being away from their homes here. As many students and teachers said, the worst thing was worrying about their friends and colleagues back here in Israel."

from an article by Forrest Broman

1995: A study in AIS friendship

In 1982, Jackie joined AIS in Pre-K as a Jewish dual citizen of Israel and South Africa.  in 1987, Samar, a Muslim Arab Israeli citizen, joined Jackie in 4th grade.  Both studied together at AIS and graduated in 1993 as seniors, and their friendship grew with every year. 

In their yearbook, they refused to appear singly and asked for a joint picture.  The quote they chose to accompany their photo was from Aristotle:  "Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.

2001: Our Jerusalem branch JAIS opens

In 2001, the American Embassy approached then Superintendent Bob Sills about starting a branch of the American School in Jerusalem.  Susan Guggenheim was hired to start the school and to be its first teacher. After the perfect location was found in the Goldstein Youth Village, the Jerusalem American International School opened with a pre-K and Kindergarten, and 8 students. 

As time passes, the population grew and the grades expanded. By 2008, the school welcomed students in grades pre-K through 6, and a very diverse community was formed including Israelis, Arabs, Armenians, Embassy personnel, children of NGO families that were working in Gaza, and of reporters from news outlets working throughout the area. 

JAIS is always a reflection of the political situation, with its population rising and falling in response to events like the moving of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and the Intifadas (respectively).  It now serves over 120 students in grades PreK though Grade 8, with high school students traveling to the Even Yehuda campus.

2007: WBAIS moves to Even Yehuda

WBAIS opened a new state-of-the-art 19-acre (77 dunam) campus in 2007 which is located in the town of Even Yehuda, a residential community approximately 20 kilometers north of Tel Aviv.

The purpose-built campus includes four separate divisions, a performing arts building with 400-seat auditorium, full gym, cafeteria, library and media center, athletic fields, tennis and basketball courts, and an olympic-sized pool.

2013: Nobel Laureate address GAIA Symposium

Israeli Nobel Laureate in Chemistry addresses the GAIA Wildlife Conservation Event at the Even Yehuda campus of WBAIS.  In 2013, AIS had a Falcon TV activity for high schoolers and they filmed the event.  They wrote:  'A couple weeks ago, GAIA held a great exhibit to promote and spread awareness in Israel about the conservation of the wildlife here. It provided the opportunity to hear from a variety of respected speakers, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Ada Yonath, and, all in all, turned out a beneficial night for everyone!"

2014: Children's opera Brundibar performed

Amb. Daniel Shapiro and  Education Minister Rabbi Shai Piron were the guests of honor at the 70th Commemorative Performance of the children’s opera, Brundibár, at WBAIS on April 2, 2014. Holocaust survivor Ela Weissberger (pictured here), from the original Brundibár productions at Ghetto Theresienstadt, also participated in the event. All the participants in the opera were WBAIS students.

Months of study and preparation involving the entire school culminated in this event that was spearheaded by music teacher Frannie Goldstein as well as teachers Liran Yaacobi and Jonathan Minke. The campus was decorated in 15,000 butterflies created by the students inspired by the book I Never Saw Another Butterfly, and in commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust.

2015: Conflict Resolution Program

The WBAIS Conflict Resolution Program brought Arabs and Israelis and non-aligned students together and taught them skills for listening and communication and techniques to better understand their own beliefs and positions, as well as those of others.  Seen here are mediators Dror Rubin (Israeli) and Faten ZInati (Arab) and CRP students from AIS and other schools.

For many of the students, these meetings were their first opportunity to have an honest and open dialogue with “the other side.” 

Testimonials from past participants:

  • Yair, from Petach Tikva: “I came to the meeting to voice my own opinions, hoping to gain understanding from my Arab peers, but I left with an understanding of my own that the other side has its own narrative that I also have to listen to.”
  • Hiba, from Sachnin: “I have met Jewish students in the past but have never spoken with them about these issues. I felt I was allowed to speak my own truth, and to learn to listen differently. Young people have to be the leaders in changing the relationship between Jews and Arabs.”
  • Katia, from Germany: “ It was amazing to see how both the Jewish and Arab students underwent a transformation. At first, no one wanted to speak; then there was a lot of shouting and blaming; finally, they learned how to speak differently. Even if there are many difficult problems to solve, we have to begin with children and the youth who are the future. 
2016: Ambassador Powers address the TIMEMUN conference

Excerpt from Ambassador Powers' speech to 800 students: Jewish, Muslim, and Christian delegates at the TIMEMUN conferences at WBAIS:

"But what you are doing here shows that these are problems that can be overcome. Whether tackling those challenges within your community or tackling challenges faced by members of the United Nations, what’s needed is actually not all that different. You’ve got to be candid and clear-eyed about the problems. You’ve got to learn to walk in the shoes of others. You cannot underestimate the transformational power that individuals have to make change. If you do that you will, in fact, bring the world closer to the model United Nations that you seek. "

2017: Early Years Reggio Emilia program opens

WBAIS opened their Early Years Reggio Emilia program in 2017 under the guidance of Maaian Zelman, and created a special building to house it.

"One of the key principles that you will find at any Reggio Emelia school is the fact that children have rights when it comes to their learning. Children are put at the centre of the practice by being treated as a ‘knowledge bearer’. By valuing children in this way educators have to put more emphasis on really listening to the children. Children need ample time and space to express themselves.

Children in Reggio settings are active builders of knowledge, and they are encouraged to be researchers. Many of the educational experiences at Reggio take the form of projects, where children have opportunities to actively participate, explore, and question things. There is also a very strong emphasis on the social development of children as part of a community and their relationships to other children, their families and teachers." Source

2019: Falcons Robotics team wins Israeli Nationals

On the WBAIS Falcons Robotics website, they described themselves as follows: "Falcons Robotics represents a team of high school students at the Walworth Barbour American International School in Israel. We are students from around the world that are innovative problems solvers, who explore and discover new skills in STEM fields, while learning to overcome the challenges that face us each day as a family. We work hard, dream big, and have fun!

In 2019, under the guidance of teacher Mike Shappell and mentor Benny Schwabsky, the AIS Robotics team won the Israeli National competition and went to Detroit with their lovable and trusty robot Spaceballs I (4338) to participate in the International First Competition.

1974, 2019: AIS staff honors former superintendent Forrest Broman on his 80th birthday

The legendary superintendent Forrest Broman (tenure 1974-2019) set as one of his primary goals to attract the finest teachers and staff to the American International School.  When he celebrated his 80th birthday, many of those teachers (some still at the school) gathered to honor him, including Elaine Levy who helped guide the school from her long term position as Elementary Principal.

Top row from left to right: Nili Sadovnik. Abby Chill, Jeanne Rabin, Bonnie Einav, Esther Barnea, Naomi Rubenstein, Shlomit Eshel, Aviva Rosensweig, Paula Benveniste

Bottom row from left to right: Ron Gonen, Elaine Levy, Forest Broman, Leonie Brickman, Fran Ran, and Elise (Hakimi) Geras

2021: COVID Vaccination Clinic on campus

When the COVID pandemic came to Israel, schools nationwide went into lockdown and virtual learning structures were created.  The creation of COVID vaccines slowly allowed personnel and students to return to face to face learning on campus.  Elementary students were the last to receive the vaccine, and WBAIS created a COVID vaccination clinic where parents could bring their children to receive their vaccines in a comforting setting. 

2022: Student-initiated drone flying class

One of the WBAIS strategic goals is to instill students with the knowledge of their own agency.  In 2022, high school students requested that a drone flying class be created. They created a formal proposal, decided on benchmarks for certification, and presented their ideas to the School Board.  The course took place and will continue this year with new students as the curriculum further develops.