Living Under The Dome

By Joella Kudron ’13 and Aaron Marcus ’12

Joella Kudron ’13 and Aaron Marcus ’12

Joella Kudron ’13 and Aaron Marcus ’12

It was a Friday afternoon in early June when we found out about the kidnapping of three young Israeli teens on their way home for Shabbat. The youths were traveling through the Judean Hills hoping to hitch a ride when they were abducted by members of the terrorist organization Hamas. As two students living in the calm and laid-back seaside town of Herzliya, this terrorist attack hit close to home and provided the flame that has brought the current episode of Arab-Israeli conflict.

At the time of the kidnapping, we were just finishing up our final semester of a masters program at the International Institute for Counterterrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel. For most of our time in Israel, the country was in relative calm. With beautiful white sand beaches, a high standard of living, and Mediterranean weather, it is easy to forget exactly where you are in the world. Tel Aviv sits about the same distance from Damascus as Rutgers is from Boston, and based on daily life in the heart of Israel, without news and the Internet you would have no idea that a mere 170 miles away hundreds of thousands of Syrians are being murdered by Bashar al Assad and Islamist insurgents. More local than the ongoing Syrian civil war is the constant barrage of rockets the South of Israel has faced on a daily basis from Hamas for the past 10 years.

Since Israel’s complete withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, Hamas and their terrorist counterparts have indiscriminately fired thousands of rockets that target Israeli civilians. It is important to understand that while thousands of rockets have been fired at Israel since June, hundreds of rockets had already been fired into Israel from Gaza between January 2014 and June. Our reality of calm sea-side life changed drastically when Hamas elevated their attacks by firing long-range missiles at civilians in Israel capable of reaching us in Herzliya as well as those in Jerusalem and even as far north as Haifa.

While murderous in their goals, Hamas also steals daily freedoms from those in Israel. Instead of simply walking to school, going into Tel Aviv, or the beach, it became, “Ok let’s walk to school, but if an air raid siren goes off on our way, where will we hide for cover?” The first time the sirens went off in Herzliya, we were sitting at a cafe when all the patrons and some stragglers on the street rushed into the cafe’s shelter. Yiyeh b’seder, they told us, “Everything will be okay.” The booms from Iron Dome confirmed their soothing statements. It was startling at first, but judging by the way most Israelis acted in its aftermath, this horrific reality is just life in Israel.

Surrounded by countries and terrorist organizations sworn to its destruction, Israel continuously adapts to threats. It is not that terrorists have stopped trying to murder Israeli civilians via suicide bombings; it is the fact that Israeli security has gotten that much better. The same trend is taking place with rockets today. As more rockets are fired at Israel, the Iron Dome missile defense system is tested in new ways and engineers are able to take the data and make the system work better. This will undoubtedly help the citizens of Southern Israel, who need to run to shelter dozens of times during the day with only a few seconds warning.

If we could take one lesson away from the conflict it would be that Israelis in general are quick to bond and stay together in times of crisis. Never once was there a feeling of every man for himself. Instead, the entire nation united, encouraged and calmed one another. Israel during a crisis feels like a family during crisis: tensions are high and threats are real, but at the end of the day the entire nation acts as one community. Hamas’ goal of destroying the world’s only Jewish state is failing. In fact, their hatred and violence toward Israel only brings the country and its people closer together.

Joella Kudron ’13 and Aaron Marcus ’12 at the Herzliya Conference in June 2014

Joella Kudron ’13 and Aaron Marcus ’12 at the Herzliya Conference in June 2014

Rutgers Hillel is proud to support our students, alumni, friends and family in Israel.

The Rutgers Hillel Center for Israel Engagement is driven by a core belief that a positive connection to Israel is essential for a strong, healthy Jewish identity. Through the Rutgers Hillel Center for Israel Engagement students develop strong connections to our homeland and the experience to be Jewish leaders.