“The University of Haifa fully supports our student reserve soldiers,” explains University President Amos Shapira, “and is taking steps to ensure that their studies are not adversely affected by their military service.”
Watch a new video about the University’s response to Operation Protective Edge here.
Message from Amos Shapira
The current battle betwen Israel and terrorist organizations in Gaza, led by Hamas and the Islamoc Jihad, is taking a heavy toll on Israeli society. We have seen the tragic loss of lives of soldiers and citizens who have been under extensive rocket attacks from Gaza for many weeks.
We were saddened to learn that three families from the University of Haifa community have buried their loved ones during this military operation. There is no family in Israel today who has not been directly affected by this battle to bring peace to the south of Israel.
I am certain that you join me in expressing our sympathies to the bereaved families and wishes of good health to the injured. May our soldiers retiurn home in peace. We are aslo saddened that many civilian lives have been lost on the opposite side of the border; Israelis, citizens and soldiers alike, wish that this tragic situation could have been pevented.
Many of our friends overseas have contacted us to inquire as to how they can help in these difficult times. My message is simple and clear:
The University of Haifa fully supports our student reserve soldiers and is taking steps to ensure that their studies are not adversely affected by their military service.
In addition, the University is offering a range of counseling and support services to the students and broader community. We are also proud that the University is leading the fight to strengthen Israel’s image in social media with our flagship Ambassador’s Online Program.
I am proud to report that, despite the security situation, we are continuing our day-to-day work, research activities and teaching routine at the University.
I truly hope that soon all our soldiers return in peace to their homes and that quiet will be restored to Israel and the region.
I. Supporting our Student Soldiers
Many of our students and faculty have been called to the front lines to stop the rocket fire aimed at Israel’s major cities and uncover the tunnels from Gaza to nearby Israeli communities. One of our undergraduate students, Kobi Rabinovich, shares his experience and concerns for the future.
Kobi Rabinovich was called to reserve duty with his unit on the Gaza border on July 8 at the beginning of Operation Protective Edge. “All day we hear artillery explosions and see soldiers going in and out of Gaza,” Kobi reported. “Unfortunately, there are also some very difficult sights – many of the casualties and those injured are coming from our area.”
Since being called up to reserve duty, Kobi has missed all five of his final exams at the University of Haifa. He has yet to submit his final paper and a thesis for another course. He had registered for a course during the summer semester. So far he’s already missed three classes, and it’s not clear how many more he’ll miss.
“Having a tutor to help me learn the material already covered in class would be really helpful. I need to complete the summer course and then study for multiple exams within a short period. I don’t know how I’ll manage without extra help.” Kobi is concerned about how he’ll make the switch from life in a military combat zone to life as a student. “It’s not going to be an easy transition,” he said.
Kobi is also worried about his financial situation. Like many students, he holds down part-time jobs during the academic year to pay for his tuition. He had planned to work intensively during the summer to finance the upcoming year. “Now I don’t know how I’ll make ends meet…since the war, my monthly bills are piling up. I don’t know how I’ll manage my academic load in addition to working during the year,” he added.
Kobi’s story is typical of many of our Israeli students who are serving on the front lines for extended periods. The University has committed to providing additional academic support in terms of flexible exam schedules, tutoring, and course registration.
II. Reaching out to our Students and the Broader Community
Based on past experience, we know that war takes a serious emotional toll on the mental health of combat soldiers, their families, and the general population. Three of our world-renown academic and research units at the University of Haifa have mobilized quickly to offer a range of counseling and emotional support services to our students, faculty members and the community at large.
- The Interdisciplinary Clinical Center has opened a special hotline to help people suffering from anxiety. The Center is headed by Prof. Rivka Yahav, recipient of the prestigious 2012 Prime Minister’s Prize for Initiative and Innovation. Staffed by experienced psychologists and psychotherapists, the special hotline is open throughout the day to provide extra support and counseling to those in need. In addition, the Center is offering art therapy workshops to help children aged 6 to 8 who are suffering from anxiety and fears.
- The International Center for the Study of Loss, Bereavement and Human Resilience has produced 11 webcasts (10 in Hebrew) to provide the public and those assisting bereaved families with background information on loss and bereavement. The programs are being made available on YouTube to assist the Israeli public during the current military operation. The English wecast can be viewed here.
- The Berman Center for Psychological and Counseling and Guidance has opened a hotline to students who require emotional support. Many of these services will be especially required when students return from their military service. Many of our students come from Israel’s peripheral towns and have minimal family support systems and limited resources.
- Hosting Families from the South. Students living in the University of Haifa dormitories opened their doors and hearts to families from the south of Israel. Shani, a graduate student in psychobiology who lives in the dorms, is hosting her mother after their home in Be’er Sheva was nearly struck by a rocket attack: “I haven’t been home in over a month,” notes Shani. Many students like Shani are hosting family members and friends who are seeking refuge from the rocket barrage in the south of Israel.
III. Supporting the War Effort
Pro-Israel advocacy is a particularly challenging task in today’s hostile media environment. Making the case for Israel requires historical knowledge, current information, a nuanced perspective on the conflict and effective social media skills.
The Ambassador’s Online Program (students picture below) is a flagship program which trains students to improve Israel’s image abroad by expanding the positive knowledge about the country and the current conflict. The Ambassadors Online students have set up an information dissemination war room where they act on social media to show the world the Israeli perspective in the current conflict.
“Many Israelis don’t know how to respond to allegations against Israel or the most effective way to respond when confronted with articles, events or statements against Zionist values and goals,” explains Prof. Eli Avraham, who heads the Program. “We are training students to respond with strategies best suited to different situations and to represent Israel effectively on various media outlets.”
The University’s Student Union, in cooperation with our Friends in Israel and abroad, organized a successful drive to collect supplies from the University community for our soldiers in the field. Items collected included toiletries, clothing, and extra food.