A Letter from HUC-JIR Year-in-Israel Students
In this letter, we would like to share with you the reasons why
this year’s class stands together unanimously in support of the
College’s decision and in support of each individual classmate’s
decision regarding the last eight weeks of the year in Israel program.
Last year, in the shadow of the Dolphinarium bombing in Tel Aviv,
62 students arrived in Jerusalem to begin their first year of study
at the College. Among the many things that greeted us were the initial
security briefings from the staff, with warnings where to go and
where not to go. At first they were simple: avoid East Jerusalem
and areas outside the Green Line. With those warnings in mind, we
set out exploring Jerusalem and making the city our own.
On August 9, while most of the class was miraculously on a tiyul
in Ashkelon, a suicide bomber killed himself and more than 10 others
at Sbarro. We reacted with a mixture of sadness, anger, and fear.
Had this bombing changed everything? Students wondered whether the
program would be cancelled, whether we would be sent home. After
all, it was a miracle that none of us were there.
Yet, tragically, the Sbarro bombing was merely the beginning of
ten months of escalation that would render our previous life in
Jerusalem unrecognizable. We watched as a trip to Ben Yehuda street
became a life or death decision. One morning, students sat in shacharit
services as a bomber killed himself outside David’s Citadel Hotel-next
door to the College and some 100 yards from the kindergarten playground
where the child of an HUC student plays.
Last week, while the CCAR convention was in town, our “safe place”
list, which had grown smaller and smaller as the months went on,
collapsed. While members of the CCAR were there, an alert security
guard captured a man determined to kill himself and many others
at a busy café on Emek Refaim, a spot we thought was safe. Two days
later-Moment. Moment Café was a safe haven for students. Located
near the Prime Minister’s office, we thought nothing could be safer.
We went there often, and again, it was a miracle that no students
were there on Saturday night. We were not physically there, but
emotionally. We knew on Saturday night that everything had changed.
It was the capstone of nearly ten months of ongoing terror.
After the Sbarro bombing, many asked if we would be allowed to
return home. But when the announcement was made earlier in the week
that going home would be an option for those who needed to, there
were no cheers or happiness. The answer was stunned silence and
This is not a decision we face lightly. We must weigh our ideologies,
our emotional well-being, our physical well-being, and the needs
of our loved ones-and find a balance that all of us can live with.
Those who choose to stay might do so at the risk of hurting their
family, those who choose to leave do so with a sense of sadness
and deep loss. All of us have been here for at least 40 weeks, and
some of us may leave 8 weeks ahead of schedule. Regardless of when
we leave, our commitment to Judaism and Zionism is deep and profound.
From all of us, we thank the administration of the school-both
here in Jerusalem and abroad, for having the courage to make this
decision, and for their spiritual and emotional guidance as we go
through our own decision making process. And we thank the members
of the CCAR who stood with us here in Jerusalem, consoling us, counseling
us, and unanimously pledging their support for the decision of the
As a class who has lived through the trauma and danger of day-to-day
life here in Jerusalem for the past nine-plus months, we are unanimous
in our support for any decision that any student makes on whether
or not to stay the additional eight weeks in Jerusalem. While some
outside critics are voicing their disapproval, those of us who have
risked our lives and the lives of our families day-in and day-out
while studying here are unanimous in our non-judgment of any decision
that any of our class chooses to make. No matter what we decide,
our hearts are in Jerusalem. Pray for her peace.