To Be a Student in Israel
by Gad Nahshon
I visited the camps of Tel Aviv University. It was registration week. Thousands of students came to this camps. Security was very tight. It was after the September 11th catastrophe. In Israel, most students are 21-22 years old. They are looking to go to the market as soon as possible. They also have to pay high tuition. Therefore, they tend to protest.
This year they were protesting against their teachers who went on strike exactly at the beginning of the semester. There is also resentment because many students have to serve in the Reserve: "In the middle of the year, before my exam, the army sent me to the West Bank to guard other students of a Yeshiva. They can study freely. They do not serve in the army. And they also do not have to pay tuition like me. The Israeli taxpayer finances their studies. This is a clear cut discrimination. You can figure out why I and others do not like to go back to the Reserve," said an Israeli officer, the son of my friend in Ramat-Gan.
Indeed, it is a well known issue, a conflict between religious and secular Israelis, the fact that many ultra-Orthodox Yeshiva students do not serve in the Army and the government finance their livelihood: studying, social benefits, support for their families (especially for their children). Years ago, Moshe Dayan said that we need some Talmudic scholars so let them study free of serving in the army. But he did not intend to say that the Israeli taxpayer will finance thousands of Yeshiva students and that so many of them will not serve like other young men in the army.
In the 'Student Fair' I came across a student-radical magazine 'Kan' (Here). It is a 'leftist' publication. Its main article by Uri Bitan argues that America is the one who produced the organization of Bin Laden. Then they said that we must liberate Afghanistan from the Soviets. The CIA rejects this notion. The magazine also claims that Israel built the Hamas as a counter act against the P.L.O. But it was a great illusion. This magazine tends to blame Israel for harassing innocent Israeli Arabs, or Palestinians.
Well, a student must be a non-conformist guy, perhaps a radical, but in Israel often most of the students are Likudniks. Most of them are very pragmatic guys. They want to challenge the real life.
In the 'fair' there were many books to buy. The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies published many books about the Middle Eastern realities. For example: Saddam's Word by Ofra Bengio, Syria by Eyal Zisser and Paul Rivlin or Egypt's quest for cultural orientation. On another table I learned about 'The forum for free choice in marriage'. This is a liberal lobby for civilian marriage in Israel. They are looking to laws to let people to marry without the approval of an official Rabbi. (There is no separation between state and religion in Israel). At another table I came across 'Anonimus', as organization which fights for the rights of animals. We should be vegetarians. "Each Israeli eats about 4,000 animals until he dies: 2,000 chickens, 2,000 fish and steaks... How come we do not hesitate to eat the body of this animal?"
The next table helps you to solve your emotional problems. Who, in Israel today, is not looking for some relaxation from the burden of pressures and more pressures? You can call 'Eran' (Emotional First Aid by Telephone). Eran has branches all over Israel (hotlines also for Russian or Ethiopian Olim! Arabic also.) 800 volunteers treat almost 95,000 calls for help. Around 9500 each year are under 18 years old. Around 2000 people try to commit suicide and around 2000 complain about sexual abuse.
You are welcome to call in order to donate money to Eran (Israel-09-8848332). We say: 'Healthy souls should live inside a healthy body.'
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