When news of the terror attack in Jerusalem first reached the students of our Year-In-Israel Program, most of them were attending a lecture on Israel's welfare system. As relatives and friends of our students began to contact them, it soon became clear that something was afoot. Those students not in class were soon contacted and we were able to confirm that all are well. Although the final toll is not yet known, we know that life has been lost and serious injury incurred. Our thoughts are with those who found themselves directly exposed to this indiscriminate violence.
It's not easy for our Year-In-Israel students to know how to respond to events such as these. It has been three years since Jerusalem last saw scenes such as this. In fact, the city has been preparing itself for a city marathon scheduled for Friday, and Jerusalemites have been trying to figure out how to do their Shabbat shopping between road blocks and diversions being out in place for the Big Race.
Now we are back to road blocks of a different kind. We believe that members of our HUC-JIR community - faculty, administration, staff, students on our Israeli Rabbinic Program, participants in our Mezorim Pastoral Care programs, and others - are all well. Students on our Pluralistic Jewish Education Program were here on campus at the time, as were the children who attend our pre-school classes, and our colleagues from the Israel Religious Action Center, the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, the World Union for Progressive Judaism, and all our other partners with whom we share this great campus.
Jerusalem is a city of great contrasts and unexpected connections. In the aftermath of the attack, one of our administrative team, Ellen Shoham, drove some Arab members of the janitorial staff over to the Damascus Gate, because it is not always easy to be an Arab Jerusalemite on the Western side of the city after a bomb attack: there are extra checks, and sometimes angry citizens to contend with. So Ellen escorted her colleagues over to the Old City to ensure that they could make their way home in safety.
Our institution trains leaders, and leaders have to cope with stressful and undesirable situations. As our College-Institute community goes about the business of getting through a difficult day, we are reminded of the fragility of all we hold most dear, and of the need we have of each other in challenging times. Our Year-In-Israel students will gather tomorrow morning at services and have a chance to share their experiences, concerns and perspectives with their teachers and colleagues. All members of our Jerusalem community, Jew and Arab, local resident and visiting student, are thrown together by the reality of living in this bleeding and beautiful place. We will have to get through all this together.
Naamah Kelman, Dean - HUC-JIR/Jerusalem
Yoshi Zweiback, Director - Year-In-Israel Program
Michael Marmur, Vice-President for Academic Affairs