Repost of the “Right Time”

I am finally making plans for my trip to Israel and England this Winter Break.  It is unlike me to have bought a plane ticket without solid plans, but I did so as to not pay double the price.  Now, I am in contact with friends to develop my plan.  I came across the following post on my Facebook profile.  I got home from studying abroad on December 26, 2008.  I wrote the post on December 28, 2008.  As I think about where I am going to be in Israel, this post certainly brings back memories.

I am hoping for a great trip, without the worries this post describes.  Hopefully, new memories will be made and I can rekindle old friendships.

Coming Home at the Right Time or the Wrong Time?

by Joel Portman on Sunday, December 28, 2008 at 12:51pm

I got home from Israel on December 26. On December 27 Israel launched a retaliatory operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip for its rocket bombardments against Israeli citizens, including 80 rockets in one day. Hamas’ rockets can now reach Be’er Sheva, the city I was in.

Here is an email I got on the security situation from the Director of the Overseas Student Program at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev where I was studying:

Dear Students,
The semester is over and some of you have left Israel, others are still here for a while. As you probably have heard, a little more than 24 hours ago the Israeli Airforce began its bombardment of the Gaza strip. This is the first phase of a military operation that is intended to restore normalcy to the Jewish towns that are adjacent to the Gaza Strip. As I write this, casualties on the Palestinian side are upwards of 230, the vast majority of which are men in uniform. On the Israeli side there has been one casualty in Netivot and 4 injured there. There is no indication at this time as to the extent of this operation. The range of Hamas rocket attacks have expanded their range to include areas that have previously been unaffected: Towns of Ashkelon, Ashdod, Kiryat Gat, Rahat and as of this morning Beer-Sheva too, are now in the Home Front Command “at risk” category. This is not a cause for extra or new alarm, but for those of you who are still in Israel it requires the following awareness and know-how: If you can plan to be elsewhere in the country for the upcoming week (Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv or their suburbs) it is advised. If you are in Beer-Sheva or any of the other abovementioned towns and you hear a waving siren or a “code red” (“Tzeva Adom”) or big explosion search out and enter the nearest designated sheltered area (a “miklat” or “mamad” or “ezor mugan”). Most likely everyone around you will be hurrying to these locations. In their absence, go to internal rooms with fewer windows or staircases. Do not stay in a bathroom when a siren is heard. After five minutes it is permitted to leave the protective areas if no other instructions were given. To those of you who are still here I suggest all to get familiar with the instructions posted (in English) in the Home Front Command website at: http://www.oref.org.il/934-en/PAKAR.aspx There is good reason to be alert and informed, but there is absolutely NO reason to get anxious or panicky. If you are still here you have noticed that the Israelis around you are calm and they stick to their daily routines.

I urge you all to contact your parents and maintain in regular contact with them as they most likely are being informed by international news agencies (CNN and the like) which tend to paint a disproportionately dire picture of Israeli reality at times like these.
Feel free to contact me, Tzipi, Hila or Inbal with any question you may have.

All the best,
Shlomo

If you are interested in updates in what is going on, check out:
www.ynetnews.com
www.jpost.com

 

Brooke Depenbusch

Hmmmmmmmmmm

December 28, 2008 at 1:03pm
  • Kerrie M. Rueda

    Just glad you’re safe and sound. Looking forward to hearing about your amazing time in Israel.

    December 28, 2008 at 1:32pm
    Miles Brennan
    For the sake of science we need to test the association between your presence and peace in the Middle East: Accordingly, fly back to Israel, and see if the shooting stops
    December 28, 2008 at 4:12pm
    Tabi Southall
    Glad you’re safe Joel
  • December 28, 2008 at 6:17pm
    Barney Katzerman
    im at the airport now. Nitay and I went to the old city, apparently there were riots going on while we were there and didnt know it.  Glad to see your home. its really not as bad as it sounds, but a lot of ppl dont want their kids in uniform…
    December 28, 2008 at 6:45pm
  • Tess Cromer

    Wow, that’s intense…I’m so glad you are safely home.

    December 29, 2008 at 11:32pm
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    Eicha – Tisha B’Av

    Tonight and tomorrow is Tisha B’Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar.  It is a fast day, a day of mourning for the destruction of the two temples in Jerusalem, the Bar Kochba revolt failing, the siege of Jerusalem, and more.

    Two years ago when I was studying in Israel, I spent the eve of Tisha B’Av in Israel.  I went with a friend to Jerusalem and we visited the Kotel (Western Wall) before going to the City of David, the site of the original founding of Jerusalem by King David, to hear the Book of Lamentations, Megillat Eichah, read.  It was a deeply moving and spiritual experience.

    Sitting on the ground by custom, thousands of Jews recited the Book of Lamentations in Jerusalem's Old City on Tisha B'Av to commemorate the destruction of the two Holy Temples in ancient Jerusalem, July 19, 2010. (Abir Sultan / Flash90 / JTA)

    Tonight I went to Tisha B’Av services at my synagogue.  I was reflecting on the powerful and meaningful words and the thoughts shared by my rabbi.  I enjoyed thinking about some of the older members of my congregation and how they have shared with me as well as my friends and family.  I thought about how lucky I am not to be living through the horrors described by Jeremiah.

    The short article below is from the JTA about Tisha B’Av and modern issues in Israel:

    JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israelis flocked to Jerusalem’s Old City to observe Tisha B’Av, the fast day that commemorates the destruction of the Holy Temple.

    A new poll released before Tisha B’Av showed that some 22 percent of Israelis would fast on the day and another 52 percent would refrain from going out with friends.

    Israeli law requires that recreational spots be closed on Tisha B’Av; 18 percent of poll respondents called that “religious coercion.”

    The Ynet-Gesher poll surveyed 505 Hebrew-speaking Jewish Israelis. It has a margin of error of 4.4 percent.

    Jewish tradition says that the Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred; the poll asked which groups are the most hated in Israeli society. Fifty-four percent of respondents answered Arabs, 37 percent named the haredi Orthodox, 8 percent religious and 1 percent Tel Avivians.

    Some 42 percent of respondents said they believed that the religious-secular issue is the worst source of tension in Israeli society, while 41 percent said it was the Jewish-Arab situation. Another 9 percent said the worst source of tension is between settlers and the rest of the country, while 8 percent said it was the tension between rich and poor.

    “May it be Thy will that the Temple be speedily rebuilt in our days”.  Jews say this three times a day in prayers.  TIME offers some interesting thoughts on what it means with the modern State of Israel.

    אני מתגעגע לישראל

    Blog Post for MASA/JAFI

    As I have posted before, I studied abroad in Israel from the end of July to the end of December 2008.  The Ginsberg-Ingerman Overseas Student Program at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) was an amazing experience and I highly recommend it to anyone who is considering studying in Israel.  Be’er Sheva may not be the usual destination, but it is a great city and BGU is consistently ranked the top university by Israeli students.

    The Overseas Student Program (OSP) is also sponsored by two quasi(?) governmental organizations, MASA and the Jewish Agency For Israel.  These groups encourage students to come to Israel and even give scholarships to do so.  I was recently contacted to write a blog post for them about my experience.  It will be posted in the near future and perhaps may also be printed in a Jewish newspaper.  Here is the article:

    In 2005 I traveled to Poland and Israel with United Synagogue Youth (USY), one of two Jewish youth groups I was a part of, along with BBYO.  The five weeks I spent in Israel were some of the best of my life.  But it wasn’t enough.  I wanted more and I knew I would have to return.
    I spent five months studying at Masa Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev from the end of July to the end of December 2008.  I attend the University of Denver where approximately 70% of the undergraduate students study abroad – so I knew I would be spending part of Junior Year in another country.  What country that would be was an easy choice.  I knew that I had to be in Israel.  The question was what school.  My options were pretty limited because of the University of Denver’s quarter schedule.  Nevertheless, I knew that there were ways to get around this.
    I was trying to decide between Hebrew University in Jerusalem or Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva.  I wanted to have the opportunity to explore Judaism while experiencing the “real” Israel.  I wanted to learn Hebrew and I knew that English was pervasive in Jerusalem.  Much to the surprise of almost everyone I knew, I chose Ben-Gurion.  It ended up being a phenomenal choice.
    I loved every minute of classes at Ben-Gurion.  Be’er Sheva is an amazing city, regardless of what anyone says.  The people are amazing.  Our first night there, about 30 lost Americans stood on the street corner trying to figure out where we were and how we could find someplace close by to eat.  A student came up and offered to make us pancakes.  We got to know him well over the next several months.
    I kept a blog for the summer to share my experiences and stories with anyone who cared to read them.  I made the following observations in my first real post:
    • There are a lot of stray cats (and some dogs) in Be’er Sheva.
    • The Israeli students are actually finishing up their semester with the next few weeks being their final period. Their schedule got messed up with two different (one professor and one student) strikes this past year. Many of these students will be moving out of the dorms. Their new semester will not begin until mid-November.
    • The school week in Israel is Sunday – Thursday. It is going to take some getting used to.
    These observations seem laughable now that I have spent time in Be’er Sheva and Israel for as long as I did.  There were so many meaningful things that happened.
    At home now in St. Louis, Missouri for the summer, I have been experiencing an extremely hot and humid summer.  The heat is familiar from Be’er Sheva, the humidity, not so much.  St. Louis is missing the sand though (which really gives the city some character).  The other day I was working in a building looking out at the sun and blue skies.  Someone mentioned spending time at the pool over the weekend and I flashed back to the days of Ulpan, when we would spend the afternoons at the pool, across from Mayonot Gimel.  We would swim, tan, or play volleyball and matkot (Israeli paddleball) with the Israeli students.  We were always welcomed and we began to feel part of the Israeli society.
    Back in Denver, I began to get involved in Israel advocacy and programming with student groups and formed relationships with StandWithUs and other organizations.  I took classes on the Israeli-Arab conflict and wrote my honors thesis on Israeli communities rising from discrimination to power.  As part of a liberal international studies program, I often found myself defending Israel, but I was always happy to do it.  I had immediately been a part of the controversy mix, returning to the United States just before my Israeli dorms were evacuated after being hit by a rocket from Gaza (don’t worry, there were no injuries).
    I knew that I would not be able to see everything that I had wanted to see during my five months.  I knew I would want to go back.  What was surprising though was how much of Be’er Sheva I did not experience.  Sure, I traveled and explored, but I always figured, “Be’er Sheva only has 200,000 people.  How much can there be here to do?”  Apparently, a lot.  I always said I would return to visit those small museums, but never did.  Hard as I knew it would be, I wanted to get up early on a Thursday morning to go to the animal auction at the Bedouin Market.  I missed it.  That is my only regret.
    My Masa Israel experience was amazing.  I would never have given it up for anything.  Now, I know that I need to return.  I hope to do so this December (when I can once again eat way too many sufganiyot! – jelly donuts).  Until then, I will think of Israel often.  See you soon!

    As you can tell, they edited it. 🙂 Once it is posted to their blog, I’ll be sure to share the link.