War changed a summer job experience

By Hanna Anderson

Originally published in the Boston Jewish Advocate, October 3, 2014.


I arrived in Israel in June, having just finished my freshman year at BU, with the intention of studying Film & Television Production yet unsure of exactly why I wanted to. The Onward Israel program gave me more opportunities than in America. Film/TV-related internships are in shorter supply for people of my age and level of experience, so the opportunity at Koren Publishers was one I didn’t want to pass up.

My primary projects revolved around creating promotional video content for online marketing. I made short “book trailers” for multiple books for use on Facebook, YouTube, the Koren website, and any other form of varied media. I also made an educational video for the new Koren Children’s Siddur, along with a promotional video, to help educators better understand the Siddur and how to use it.

[ When the Gaza war broke out] my family was just as worried as I would have liked them to be, but they took the time to understand the situation and trust both my judgment and that of the Onward Israel program. I stayed in safer parts of Israel when rocket fire intensified, and I actively stayed away from areas of Jerusalem more prone to unrest or rioting.

Israeli support and care for one another is impressive on an average day, let alone during a time like this. While some may label Israeli behavior as “intrusive” or “rude,” I have come to realize that it is no more than the intrusiveness or rudeness we receive from our own immediate families in America. In Israel, everyone is your family and everyone represents your family, thus you naturally care for everyone as if they are just that. It is an environment like nowhere in the United States because this national care for one another is constant throughout the entire country, never failing to make one feel supported and loved.

The community during this conflict embodied the meaning of empathy. People cried for citizens they had never met. I was one of what seemed like thousands who attended the shiva for Max Steinberg, an American lone soldier killed during the Operation, and the shiva, although it was meant to bring comfort to the Steinberg family, seemed to bring comfort to everyone in attendance. Everyone needed comfort, even though most of us had never even heard Max Steinberg’s name before. In Israel, everyone is wholly invested in the affairs of the country, whether it be the politics, the wars, or the triumphs. Thus the sense of national community was incredibly strong. It seemed to me that most people felt more sad than angry, more hopeful than discouraged, and safer than in danger. I never felt the need to return home because not only does life go on in Israel during times like this, but there are countless people who support you and feel grateful for the support you may unknowingly bring them.

Whenever anything did seem a bit more dangerous, such as the times I heard the siren and had to take shelter, I made sure to contact my parents with reassuring news before they could hear things on the media. This, along with their checking in on me, made for a good long distance relationship, and as time went on I saw that my being in Israel inspired my family to learn more about the conflict and get involved themselves. My mom, for example, found out about a local pro-Israel rally, and she took part without hesitation. My brother, at URJ (Union for Reform Judaism) Camp Harlam, was able to tell our friends at camp what he was hearing from my experience, consequently sharing eyewitness information about the conflict to others who cared about what was happening. In the end, I am happy to have been there to share what I learned with them, and I think it served to strengthen our Jewish identity as a family.

I realized that we are often desensitized to the dangers others experience around the world, and this experience opened my eyes to the urgent obligation we have to make a difference in those lives. I also learned about the case for Israel and why it is an important case for America as well, even for those who are not Jewish. Finally, I developed a greater connection to Israel that I will certainly bring home.

Hanna Anderson is a Boston University sophomore.

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