Winter 2002-2003


 

 

Emergency Call-Up Orders Make Student Life More Difficult

 

The U.S. members of the Boston-Haifa Connection demonstrated solidarity with Israel and with the University in several concrete ways this late Fall:  their presence—300 strong—here when other groups and organizations were canceling visits to Israel; their discussions at the University on developing a civil society in Haifa (see separate article); and their donation of 100 supplemental scholarships to University of Haifa students who had received emergency call-up orders (tzav shemonah) to serve in the Defensive Shield campaign last spring and had experienced combat.  The ceremony at which these scholarships were presented proved an emotional evening in different ways for the soldier-students who had to interrupt their studies and put their lives on the line.  Focus talked with two of these students.

 

‘If I don’t contribute to the State, who will then?’

 

Shay Amar, 27, is in his first year, studying political science and statistics.  Last year, when he was mobilized, he was in the University’s Preparatory Program after having served 4 ½  years in the Air Force.  It was close to final exams at the time.

    As an auxiliary air crew flight mechanic—“the third member of the crew,” he termed it—he was responsible for all technical matters in the rear, “passenger side” of a large helicopter.  His passengers were wounded soldiers, whom he had to help evacuate to hospitals.  There was a three-day period, he recalled, when he had just two-three hours of sleep over the course of three hectic days of flying out some 60 wounded soldiers from the battlefield. 

    “I met one of those I evacuated at the scholarship ceremony,” he revealed.

    His officers had to add soldiers to his crew during the two weeks of the campaign, and they wanted to give him leave to rest up.  “I didn’t agree,” Shay said.  “I wanted to stay to the end.”  Which he did, and then when there was another campaign, he was called up again.  Shay, though, looks upon his reserve service as a kind of calling.  “God gave me a present to save people,” he remarked.

    After Defensive Shield, it was difficult to return to his studies, mainly because he also had to make up exams.  “You work a little harder,” he says philosophically.  “What can you do?”  He obtained lecture notes from classmates.  But some of the lecturers in the Preparatory program were even more helpful: they gave free tutorials in the subjects missed.  And for these lecturers he had high praise.

    He also expressed great appreciation for the supplemental scholarship he received from the Boston-Haifa Connection.  It was, he thought, a goodly amount, especially as he had not expected it.  He said that other recipients he had spoken with felt the same.

    Shay said he wanted to change one of his majors next year to economics-business administration, along with political science.  The combination will, he feels, aid him in his ambition, “to influence things in the State.”

    In the meantime, he is not through with flying.  He has already done 60 days of reserve duty this year because of the nature of his military job although, as a student, he should normally do no more than 21 days a year.  For this reason, he is thankful that his next stint of reserve duty will involve learning about a new helicopter that his unit is to use.  It means less duty time and, therefore, more time for his studies.

    Actually, Shay said, he is supposed to do reserve duty every month to stay qualified for this elite branch of service.  He has, though, come to an agreement with the Air Force to divide his reserve duty so as to remain in good standing and still be able to carry on with his studies. 

    “If I don’t contribute to the State, who will then?” Shay Amar asks very seriously.  “It’s more work for me now and I have to invest a lot more time in my studies,” he acknowledges.  But, there are no regrets. “I enjoy the work.” 

 

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