It began with foul language, lip piercings and under-age drinking, but it led to studying an “ology” and spending more time with the family.
Two Hampshire teenagers who lived for a week with a strictly Orthodox family in Israel for a BBC reality show believe the experience changed their lives.
Jack Travers, 18, and Gemma Lyons, 17, filmed the episode of World’s Strictest Parents with the Sha-ked family in the gated, religious community of Nof Ayalon, near Modi’in, in May.
Chosen to take part in the show after dropping out of college, Jack, a Goth, enjoyed a very different lifestyle from his usual routine in Winchester, when he moved in to Modi’in with Tzippi and David Sha-ked and their five children.
Jack said: “It was really strange being in Nof Ayalon. The main weird bit was that everyone in the community knew each other and stuck together. It’s not like that where I live.
“They asked me to take my lip piercing out and said I could not walk around outside with my make-up on. Half my clothes were unsuitable. I didn’t see any other Goths. It was hard, but we compromised.”
During the filming the teenagers learnt about kashrut, visited the Western Wall and spent a day training on an IDF base. Jack has used the experiences to change his life back in Britain.
“Spending time together and having Shabbat was a very big thing for the Sha-keds. Now I make time to see my family. Before going to Israel I really did not get on with my step-dad, but now we have a much better relationship.
“The Sha-ked children spent all their spare time on their education. I had dropped out of college but I’m now back and studying biology, chemistry, psychology and geography for my A-levels, and putting my time into that.”
Jack has kept in regular contact with his Israeli hosts and hopes to return to visit them in Nof Ayalon.
He said: “When I told my friends I was going to Israel, they thought I’d get shot. But it was not what I was expecting at all. It’s a lovely country. The whole thing was a fantastic experience for me.”
Gemma clashed with the Sha-keds when filming began and was eventually thrown out of the house after being caught sunbathing in a bikini on the family’s lawn.
But after being forced to dress in a more respectful outfit, borrowed from a charity shop, she also changed her ways. She began observing Shabbat and is now planning to return to Israel to study at university. She said making the programme had taught her that “you need to respect yourself, and if you cover up, you are respecting yourself”.