by Emily Singer
Students from UW-Madison meet with Sapir College professors.
The temperature was negative thirty degrees when we left Madison, Wisconsin in the early morning hours of Sunday February 10, 2008. As members of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Hillel Leadership Trip to Washington D.C. we were enthusiastic about the prospect of spending a few days in above freezing temperatures. Six of us were chosen to represent our university’s Hillel for three days in Washington, D.C. where we attended meetings at the Hillel International Center, the Embassy of Israel, and with our Congressional representatives, in addition to visiting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The somber highlight of our trip was a meeting with Dr. Uri Bibi and Dr. Ruti Eitan, professors at Sapir College in southern Israel. The professors described to us the dire situation of their college, located less than a mile from the Gaza Strip and under constant missile attack for the past seven years. Though we had known of the frightening situation in Sderot for quite some time, this was the first time that most of us had heard of Sapir College. Ruti and Uri described the unique college environment at Sapir and spoke of the adversity that the students and faculty of Sapir must struggle through everyday. They spoke of the shock that affects students every time a qassam rocket falls and the stress of maintaining academic studies under continuous threat. They also described the inconvenience of buildings and classrooms deemed hazardous by the Israel Defense Forces because they are not protective enough against a possible rocket attack, the money redirected from academics to pay for reinforcing buildings with concrete and the general chaos and emotional pain suffered by the students and faculty of Sapir College.
Upon leaving D.C. and returning to Madison, we all felt proud and connected to the Sapir community. As students, living in a college environment, we cannot imagine maintaining our studies and our lives in such a severe environment. As a result of our newfound connection to Sapir College, we were all struck by the death of Roni Yechiah, a student at Sapir College and a father of four, due to a barrage of rocket attacks on Wednesday February 27, 2008.
When we heard of this tragic event, we immediately thought of our friends at Sapir College and wrote a letter of condolence and support to Ruti and Uri. But we wanted to express our feelings to the entire Sapir community, so we wrote a separate letter from Hillel student leaders at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to the students and faculty of Sapir College, conveying to them our admiration for their strength and courage through these tragic events. We also expressed our appreciation to these brave individuals who continue to live their lives everyday, no matter what adversity they face.
The Hillel students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison will continue to do whatever is in our means to show our support for the Sapir community, Sderot and its surrounding areas.
Emily Singer is a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
For more news like this and up-to-date briefs about Jewish campus life, subscribe to our free eNewsletter Hillel Campus Report.