I did not expect to become a target of missile fire this summer — that was never on my intended agenda of tanning, shopping and padding the resume. Yet, during the middle of my Jerusalem summer program’s potluck dinner, our shrieks of delight at the watermelon and feta salad succumbed to deadening silence as a siren suddenly blared over the loudspeaker.
Nothing kills a dinner party like an alarm and the voice of God — or in this case, a man sputtering forceful directions overhead in incomprehensible Hebrew. All seventeen of us squished into the bomb shelter — aka my friend’s room — which was equipped with a double-paned window and incredibly thick walls. Deeming the disturbance a drill despite its unusual timing, we passed around the chocolate rugelach and pumped up the One Direction (Harry Styles has helped me through many a crisis). After we waited ten minutes, or the allotted time for such practice security measures, we uneasily filed out of the room/shelter and continued our meal.
Soon, however, we learned the truth: Rockets from the Gaza Strip had not only targeted Tel Aviv and Beir Sheba, but even aimed at Jerusalem. Fortunately, the Iron Dome — an air-defense system which Israel recently developed — intercepted and destroyed the rockets.
Though currently safe from rocket attack in Jerusalem, I am most struck by the resiliency of the Israeli people I have encountered in the face of possible danger. While the architects of VCW absentmindedly forgot to include closets in the rooms, each building in Hebrew University was designed to withstand bomb threats and shooting sprees; each apartment has a bomb shelter. It’s incredible to me that the students here so easily live and study in such an oppressive and terrifying environment. After one mere alarm, I was freaking out! Luckily, my mom’s concern if (a) I was okay and (b) I did my laundry, promptly brought me back from diva-land to reality.
I also learned how to cope in this new reality by observing everyone around me. In the face of the escalating conflict, life here in Jerusalem, besides the occasional security cautions, carries on as usual. For example, on the top of Masada, an ancient archaeological site, we saw three unmarked planes fly close to the ground in the span of twenty minutes. While our group looked at each other nervously, our Israeli guide, clearly unfazed, just exclaimed, “that’s unusual,” and continued blathering on about the Romans.
Leaving aside any political conversation, I am amazed at many Israelis’ capacity to recover and thrive in the midst of crisis. If there is anything I will learn from my summer experience in Israel, it’s that nothing — whether a midterm or a hangover — is as bad as a missile hurtling toward you, and I can handle that.
Jessica Tannenbaum is a rising junior in the College. This is her third post about her experience studying abroad at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.