Benjamin Netanyahu as a Philly millennial: Israel’s re-elected Prime Minister at Cheltenham High

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Benjamin Netanyahu just won his fourth term as Israel’s prime minister. But before he was Bibi the longtime prime minister, he was Ben — the Philly suburb soccer player and chess aficionado.

Netanyahu’s family moved to Cheltenham from Israel in the early 1960s, when he was 13 years old, according to a 1996 article in the Inquirer. His father was teaching history at Dropsie College, now a part of UPenn.

During his time in the suburbs, Netanyahu experienced the life of an American high schooler. Though his devotion to Judaism precluded him from parts of the social scene, he still joined the Cheltenham High School chess club, the soccer team and the science seminar and earned a National Merit Letter of Commendation. Check out these yearbook photos from his senior year (the team photo is of the chess club).

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Netanyahu graduated in 1967. He didn’t attend the ceremony. In 1996, The Jewish Week spoke to his friend Zelda Rae Stern, who recalled that Netanyahu’s family had left for Israel about a month earlier. By the time of the graduation ceremony, Israel was in the middle of the Six Day War with Egypt.

“He was my friend,” Stern told the Week. “And then one day in 1967, he just wasn’t there anymore. No messages, nothing. I asked everybody, ‘where’s Benjamin?’ And then I started reading about troop movements in Sinai.”

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