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Home > Israel > More than physics to be learned these days at Hebrew U

More than physics these days at Hebrew U.
Life and learning amid realities of intifada

JUF News
January 4, 2001

JERUSALEM—Shriek of the alarm clock. Soak up the incredible view from the apartment of Jerusalem. Nibble on some pita and hummus on the way to class. Whine after confirming the term paper REALLY is due tomorrow. Book it to the gym before all the treadmills are occupied. Run through the mounting pile of Hebrew vocabulary flashcards. Convince the roommate to come hear tonight's speaker at Hillel with you. Plead with your Israeli friend to speak to you in Hebrew, not English ... just a typical day in the life of an American student at Hebrew U living through intifida Al-Aqsah.

On a particular morning, I study physics at the Givat Ram campus of Hebrew University. My professor demonstrates in class how to calculate the distance a missile fired at initial velocity X can travel. The practical application of this "hypothetical" problem takes on new meaning this semester. Little did I know when I boarded my El Al flight heading to Ben Gurion Airport on Aug. 7 that the Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times," would soon befall me.

Over these past four months, I've learned the therapeutic benefits of the art of laughter. Take the night I was on Ben Yehuda Street and got into a cab to take me home to my apartment on Mt. Scopus. I ask the driver in Hebrew, how much will it cost? He answers, "Fifteen shekels. But it's 10 shekels extra for each stone that is thrown at my cab on the way."

Or last weekend, when my friends and I had planned to go to Tel Aviv. Out of habit, we checked the Internet right before departing for the bus to get the most breaking news, only to discover a bomb had just been detonated at the Tel Aviv Bus Station. So we modified our plans slightly.

Then there are the days when it is a lot harder to find a reason to laugh. The afternoon of the fated Mahane Yehuda car bombing (Nov. 2), my roommate had decided she was sick of living under restrictions and happened to have ventured to that very area to do some shopping. I was oblivious of the tragedy as I sat in my History of Zionism lecture. Upon hearing the news after class, my heart sank to my stomach and pure fear pervaded. The panic intensified as I discovered cell phone signals were not operating, as a result of everyone simultaneously attempting to call and reassure their loved ones. It was the longest 15 minutes of my life until my cell phone rang and my roommate's humbled voice was on the other end of the line.

Such are the realities of the intifada. But I am a foreign student. I am living in an apartment building with IDF reservist soldiers who have served their time and are now in university. I have it easy. I go home in January.

But this is their home. They constantly check their voice mail to see if they have been called back to service. They have sacrificed the best years of their young adult lives to fight to allow people like me to be here. The only difference between the Israelis and me is that my ancestors happened to have settled in America while their ancestors settled in Israel. When worried friends and family from the U.S. ask me why I stay in Israel under the current situation, I answer that when living side by side with the people who have fought and will continue to fight for this country-the people whose best friends are in the CNN pictures and on the nightly news in America-I wouldn't dare run away.

That said, the situation most days is one of normalcy. The vast majority of the overseas students in the Rothberg International School of Hebrew University have made the decision to remain in Israel-a decision (in most cases) highly supported by our parents in the States. We go about our daily business in Jerusalem and travel on the weekends to the safe parts of Israel. I forget that there is an intifada most of the time, especially when I am around Israelis who display more concern about last night's soccer game between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem than anything else! Israelis cringe when they hear that the economy continues to suffer as tourism declines. But after living here, I feel confident saying the biggest risk I have encountered is crossing the street in the morning to get to school.

(Israeli drivers make NYC drivers look cautious behind the wheel, but don't tell my mother.) I fear that by choosing not to come to Israel right now, Diaspora Jews are letting the terrorists win. They want us to live in fear. Now, more then ever, we must come to Israel to prove our commitment, strength, and unity.

Marissa Miller, a Buffalo Grove resident and member of Congregation B'nai Shalom, is spending a semester at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem on a study abroad program through her school, Duke University.

© JUF News, 2001. May not be reproduced without written permission.

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