The Big Felafel


From Rockets to Knowledge: The Difference We Can Make for Sderot Youth

Summer camp was the best place on earth for me as a kid (probably still would be as an adult). Being a camper and escaping from real life for a week or two at a time was just so needed from ages 7 to 15. I mean school was hard, what with all those math problems, and recess was already filled with drama, whether it was a fight about who would play mom in “house,” or boys with cooties; camp was always the much needed break and promise land away from my problems.

Every kid needs camp. But some kids need it more than others. While back in the sixth grade I stressed out about my boy problems, today the children of the city of Sderot are more worried about rocket fire and staying alive. For over eight years the threat of rockets and war has plagued the city of Sderot. That means that the children of Sderot have grown up with this continued danger, and some of them were literally born into it, making this the only life they know.

Sderot Knowledge Campers

This summer, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has opened up its doors and teamed up with The Canadian Friends of Hebrew University and Committee for a Secure Sderot to provide 200 youth with the opportunity to escape Sderot and the rockets and have a week of fun and learning in the Israel’s capital.

For one-week these kids can enjoy regular kid activities like swimming, bowling and going on hikes without worrying about where the nearest bomb shelter is or make sure their ears are alert for the warning of rockets. On top of the usual fun stuff they will also participate in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder workshops (PTSD) with trained professionals to help them with the trauma they have experienced and most likely will experience again. And to add to the experience the kids will also have the privilege of learning science in labs at the Hebrew University. This is a great treat for them, because coming from a periphery town these kids are barely getting a decent education let alone the opportunity to study at the top university in the country.

I met some of the Sderot kids that are at the camp and was taken away with their candid stories about living in a warzone. Even though most of them are 13 to 16-years-old, they talk like grown ups, speaking about the fear of death and life under fire. Each one of them has a story or stories about kassams (rockets) falling outside their homes, inside their living rooms and for one boy, on the pillow he had just been resting his head on before getting up to go the bathroom. They speak about these incidents void of emotion (due to the trauma); yet listening to them you feel their pain and understand the necessity of bringing them out of the city even if it is for one week.

While each youth is special, there was one that really stood out to me. His name is Daniel and he will be 16-years-old in a month. But unlike teenagers in America, he is not worrying about passing his driving test; instead he worries about surviving rockets. Daniel was a camper in this Knowledge camp but back in Sderot he volunteers helping younger children deal with PTSD as well as to cope with the stress and anxiety of everyday life. Daniel thinks he is just living life, but to me he is defining it. Everyday he survives his fear, he lives his life, and he supports others and wakes up to do it again, day after day.

If you want to help sponsor a camper like Daniel please check out my Give2gether page. It doesn’t take much for you to make a difference for kids like Daniel, and yet it’s all the difference in the world. I’m sponsoring Daniel or at least I am doing what I can, I hope you can do the same.


The Bomb Still Explodes: The Hebrew University Bombing 7 Years Later

memorial

Frank Sinatra Cafeteria Memorial

Yesterday I took part in a live twitter chat with Maia Sigal Leslau, a victim of the Hebrew University bombing. The terrorist attack took place on July 31st, 2002 at the Frank Sinatra Cafeteria on the Mt. Scopus campus. The Hebrew University was intentionally targeted because it stands as a symbol to the revitalization of the Jewish people and is home to thousands of students from all over the world.

The bomb— a cell phone in a bag on the table of the bustling café, where students gathered mid day to eat a quick lunch or take a much needed break—went off and killed nine people and injured over eighty. One of those nine was my friend Marla Bennett.

I remember the phone call about her death that changed my world forever. I was in complete denial and to this day I have not really accepted her passing. I remember demanding proof that they knew it was her, that they knew she was dead. And even though I got my answer it never felt real.

marlabennett

Marla Bennett, 24-years-old z"l

Yesterday, the opportunity to speak with Maia helped me cope with reality. She personally told me about the bombing from her point of view. She didn’t hear the bomb go off, but she said she knew something was wrong. She was alert and asked her friend to take her bag and call her mother.

Maia survived despite shrapnel piercing her brain. She lost sight in her eye and still has scars, not to mention the emotional scaring. I would think that anyone that survived the bombing would be afraid, angry and have a loss of faith. But not Maia. She is a strong willed young woman, who actually became more religious since the bombing.

Maia is inspiring. She not only inspires me to be more thankful of what I have, but made me realize that if Marla had survived the bombing she too would be like Maia. Marla would be strong and do her best to stay positive in the face of evil. Marla was the nicest person I ever met. Nice as in good intentions, a big heart, a never ending smile and hope that survived her death.

The chat may have been short with 140 characters at a time, but the message is long lasting.

Thank you Maia for your candor.

Marla not a day goes by that I don’t wish you were still alive.

Below please find some of Maia’s comments during the conversation. The twitter chat took place through Hebrew University’s twitter account: @HebrewU (English) and @HebrewU_heb (Hebrew).

@FelafelBalls I’m getting over it every day, every morning when I get up and thank G-d for being in this world, for being alive.10:06 AM Jul 28th

@slerner #izkor I became religious after the bombing, understanding and believing this is the hand of G-d keeping me alive.10:16 AM Jul 28th

@charliekalech #izkor I’m sad abt the 9 people who are not w/ us any more. I’m sorry for myself that someone changed my life without asking.10:12 AM Jul 28th

@dejerusalem #izkor The bombing was not really a surprise, sad to say. During 2002 it was a daily routine in Jerusalem.10:36 AM Jul 28th

@miriamschwab #izkor It’s on July 31, the memorial will be held tmrw on campus. My lesson: We have only one Land, this is the true home.10:53 AM Jul 28th

@dejerusalem #izkor I’m one of the lucky ones, I’m a survivor. I always remember I could have been a victim. It is always with me.11:02 AM Jul 28th


Are you a member of this Facebook group?

sderot-face-book-groups.JPGIf you thought that Facebook was just a website for your random friends and photo albums, then you are sorely mistaken. If you have ever joined a Facebook group then you know that there are a lot of strange and wonderful things happening in cyberspace.Perhaps you have an interest in toes, well don’t worry because there are over 500 groups that are willing and ready to accept you and your foot fetish. There are just as many groups for cookie monster lovers too. And somewhere in between all that you can find a new group urging Sderot residents to learn how to build kassams.

It might sound random but for many this group is a desperate last resort to end the barrage of kassams. I think it is time to admit that if we wait for the government’s response we will all be as bald as Olmert before there is any retaliation. Therefore it is left up to the citizens to end the rocket fire.

There are many ways to try to get your message out there. Continue reading this entry »