Coping with Conflict in Israel

Coping with Israel Conflict

“Would you like your drinks before or after we go to the bomb shelter?” With unwavering calm, a waitress coolly inquired after our drink orders as incoming rocket fire compelled us to flee our oceanside table for the local Tel Aviv bar’s shelter. To quote the 2003 cinematic classic “Bad Boys 2,” shit just got real.

After growing up in the Midwest and spending two years of college in the Georgetown bubble (where the greatest threat to my survival was Tuscany’s closing), I have found the gravity of the conflict in Israel difficult to fully fathom. While rockets have sporadically threatened Jerusalem, warning sirens echoed through Tel Aviv at least five times a day in the past week. Even in the relative safety of Jerusalem, I still consider the blaring of the alarm bells terrifying. I am not alone: Fearing an escalation in conflict, many universities have evacuated their students from Israel.

Unaccustomed to such a threatening environment, many students in my group have turned to humor in order to cope. From setting a picture of the Iron Dome demolishing a rocket as a Facebook cover photo to complaining that the bomb shelter doesn’t have Wi-Fi, humor provides the best medicine. By jokingly thanking Hamas for timing their missile firing during class time, we conceal our greater fear that the classroom — our supposedly sheltered cocoon of learning — cannot escape the looming menace of the outside conflict.

Yet, I wonder if this treatment of the crisis unfairly diminishes the suffering and fear both sides have experienced. Since I am a foreigner staying in Israel for only a short period of time, I can brush off the frightening moments I have confronted as an adventure, which will impress the SFS hotshots when I get back on campus. For most people, however, this is their home: Innocent civilians in Gaza have been killed and displaced, while various Israeli cities experience continued rocket attacks. We must remember this is no laughing matter. In order to reduce hostilities and begin to mend the widespread mistrust, it’s going to take more than a few one-liners: Both sides need to express a commitment for peace.

Jessica Tannenbaum is a rising junior in the College. Check out her other posts about her experience at Hebrew University this summer.

Photo: rt.com

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.

Eat, Pray, Rest: Shabbat in the Holy City

Shabbat

While most Georgetown students worship the weekend as much-needed time to catch up on homework and binge-watch Game of Thrones (let’s be honest, though, when did midterms ever truly thwart us from GOT?), Jerusalem regards the weekend very differently.

As Friday evening approaches (weekends in Israel are on Fridays and Saturdays), supermarkets crowd and bustle with a fervor similar to students dashing to the Leo’s pasta line. Yet, once the sun begins to set, a siren ushers in a silence discernibly grasped throughout the city. From Friday evening to Saturday evening, Jerusalem respects Shabbat, or the Jewish day of rest. Restaurants close; buses and light-rail cease their customary routes. For tourists—and students looking for a fun time—the choice is simple: pray in Jerusalem, or play elsewhere.

Initially, I considered this strict practice of Shabbat overly daunting. Observant Jews not only are unable to check their email, drive a car or prepare a snack during Shabbat, but they cannot even turn on the lights. Is this lifestyle possible at Georgetown? Given our busy schedules packed with difficult classes and leadership engagements, students rarely take the time to even breathe, much less dedicate twenty-four hours to “rest.” Nevertheless, in my study abroad program, four incredibly intelligent and talented modern Orthodox students at a rigorous American university still manage to fulfill their obligations to their religious practice and their academic studies.

Although we cannot expect to fully embrace such stringent observances, Georgetown students can learn a lot from Jerusalem’s Shabbat. Winding down and decompressing after a hectic week can actually help us achieve more in the subsequent days. By dedicating even a few moments from our week to reflect on our lives and the world around us, we perhaps may enjoy a more restful — and meaningful — Georgetown experience.

Jessica Tannenbaum is a rising junior in the College. She has previously contributed to The Fourth Edition.

Photo: 500px.org