Under the Iron Dome: Experiencing the Conflict in Israel First-Hand

lifeundertheirondomeI 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.

From the Hilltop to the French Hill

Georgetown in Israel

​After two semesters of trekking to Lau and whining about Leo’s food, summer provides a much-needed escape from the Georgetown bubble. Yet, even while exploring Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, Mount Scopus—my new campus home for the summer—I have begun to put Georgetown in perspective. Located in its nation’s capital, world-renowned and buzzing with cafés and students lounging on the lawn, Hebrew University is actually a lot more like Georgetown than I would ever have thought. Here are some surprising similarities:

1. Call Animal Control
Let’s be honest: no one came to Georgetown for the rats and squirrels. I intentionally bypass Old North to avoid mice Mecca. At Hebrew University, however, cats prove an inescapable presence. Not only do cats roam the library and the student center, but students also maintain an area on campus specifically to feed the cats. Maybe if we took some cats to Georgetown, we’d at least lose one problem.

2. Dead Man Walking
While Georgetown houses a cemetery for Jesuits between Harbin and the ICC, Hebrew U actually boasts two: the British War cemetery and the American Colony cemetery. Nothing like looking at graves for some encouragement on the way to class.

3. Satellite Struggles
If you haven’t heard of the infamous and much-bemoaned proposal to introduce a satellite Georgetown campus, then you probably were living in Hebrew University. Although Hebrew U retains six different campuses depending on subject area, Georgetown students would universally protest the Mount Scopus layout. While the dorms sit on one side of the campus, students have to walk twenty minutes to the library and the academic buildings. Forget about waking up five minutes before class.

4. Campus on a Hill
Both Georgetown and Hebrew U are situated on one of the highest points of their respective cities. What a geographic sense of superiority!

5. The Village People
Rooming in VCW and Village A, I have always lived in some sort of village. Out of all the Georgetown idiosyncrasies, I considered this the most peculiar. Instead of being super confusing to visitors and new students, can’t the university just find some rich people to buy the name and then use the money to put treadmills in some common rooms? Yet, in Hebrew University, my dorm is number 7 in the Student Village. I guess some seemingly unique eccentricities really supersede countries and customs.

Before arriving at Hebrew University, I considered my summer to be a very different, if not completely opposite, experience to my first year at Georgetown. But I guess it just goes to show that no matter where you go as a Hoya, memories of the Hilltop will always travel with you.

Jessica Tannenbaum is a rising junior at Georgetown. Thanks, Jessica!

Photo: horizon2020projects.com