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.


‘It is not easy for students to stop their studies in the middle…’


David Riesenfeld objects politically to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.  The 24-year-old student, however, also believes that it is “important for me to do reserve duty.  I believe I have to do it, because if we think not to do it, then the army could fall apart.  It’s not my job to decide to do it or not.  I will fulfill my obligation so long as it is within the framework of the code of army law.”

    The words sound like those coming from a political science major, but David is a first-year student in the School of Social Work.  His objective in life is to help people.  “I want to help myself by helping others,” he remarks.  It is no surprise to learn that he is a combat medic with the paratroops.

    David was among the University of Haifa soldier-students mobilized on emergency orders for the Defensive Shield campaign last spring who received a supplementary scholarship from the Boston-Haifa Connection.  His call-up came shortly before the psychometric exams for gaining acceptance to a university, and also just before his final exams at the University’s Pre-Academic Preparatory Program.  “It was,” he said in understatement, “a difficult time.”

    The orders were for 39 days, but his superiors took cognizance of his predicament and reduced his service to 21 days.  He had brought books with him, but there was scant time or desire to do any studying during those three weeks.  “So after I got out, it was full speed ahead,” he recalled.  He had been discharged two weeks before the psychometric exams.

    “When I returned to the University,” he continued, “the lecturers were very considerate.  They did a lot to try to help me.  I have no complaints.  The Student Union also provided tutorials.

    “It is not easy for students to stop their studies in the middle.  Fortunately, there does seem to be more of an awareness of students’ needs now than there was in the past.”

    David is from Rehovot, but he chose the University’s Mechina (Preparatory) program as being the most appropriate for what he wanted to study.  He was looking eventually for a profession that involved interaction with people, he said. 

    “I never thought I was a student before coming to the Mechina,” he admitted.  “Then I said to myself that I now had the opportunity.  I suddenly wanted to study.  I started as an ‘underdog.’  I’m now proud of my results.  One of the happiest days in my life was when I was accepted to the School of Social Work.”

    He is appreciative of the supplementary scholarship.  Although his parents help out, he plans to work as a guard to earn money to finance his education.  He found the scholarship ceremony to be emotionally exciting, being particularly impressed with “Dr. Bob” [Robert Shulman of Boston], as he called him, both for what the philanthropist had to say and for his active identification with Israel.

    “Now I’m trying hard to prove I can succeed as a student,” he told Focus.  Then he poignantly added, “My efforts will pay off.  I’ll prove to myself—to no one else I have to—that I can get a degree.”

    David Riesenfeld is aware, though, that interruptions to the continuity of this education will continue.  Earlier, he had mentioned that he has reserve duty again in May.



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