Hundreds of Students Called Up; University Reaches Out to Families, Youth and Academic Institutions from Besieged South

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Hundreds of students Called Up; University Reaches Out to Families, Youth and Academic Institutions from Besieged South

January 7, 2009 - Over 1000 Hebrew University students have been called up for military reserve duty in the wake of the Cast Lead military operation in Israel’s South. The Dean of Students has assured all students doing reserve duty, as well as those living in the South that, on their return to the University, every effort will be made to ensure that their programs of study — including exam schedules and deadlines for handing in course work — are not harmed.

L to R Carmi Gillon, Vice President for External Relations; Prof. Avishai Dekel,head of the Authority for Community and Youth; Prof. Menachem Magidor, President of the Hebrew University

“This situation is undoubtedly difficult for those students called up for duty and for those who live in the affected areas. The University will do everything it can to enable them to complete their courses,” said University Rector Prof. Sarah Stroumsa.

The University is also opening its gates to families and academic institutions in the South. Students from communities in the Gaza envelope that are within 40 kilometers of the Gaza Strip and who live in University dormitories have been encouraged to invite their families to join them at the dormitories. The University has also offered to host the activities of colleges in the South at its campuses. A Ben-Gurion University of the Negev international conference ‘Crisis as an Opportunity’ scheduled to be held in Beersheba this week has been relocated to the Hebrew University.   

Meanwhile, the Authority for Community and Youth of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is hosting eighth- and ninth-grade students from the South at three-day science camps. To date, over 100 youngsters from Ashkelon, Sderot and Netivot have participated. In many communities in the south of the country, schools have been closed for the past 10 days due to the continuing rocket attacks from Gaza.

President of the Hebrew University Prof. Menachem Magidor and Vice President for External Relations Carmi Gillon met today with eighth and ninth graders from Ashkelon attending the science camp. "The University is glad for the opportunity to bring students from Ashkelon here to have a break and at the same time become acquainted with the University," said Prof. Magidor.

Ninth-grader Lydia thanked Professor Magidor: "We thank you and the staff of counselors for hosting us so well and we appreciate the chance to disconnect from the atmosphere in Ashkelon for a while and see a completely different world."

Two of the groups of students comprised participants in the pre-Atidim program, which is designed to motivate and encourage middle and high-school youngsters from the periphery to further their educational prospects.

Further groups are expected to be hosted by the University’s Authority for Community and Youth. The Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University has pledged support for the program. Beyond the assistance of the University community, many local businesses in Jerusalem have contributed to the science camps. Meals have been provided by restaurants, pizza parlors and bakeries; social activities such as shows, theater performances and drumming sessions have been offered for free. As long as the rocket attacks continue, additional funds will be needed.

During their stay in Jerusalem, the youngsters participate in science workshops at the Belmonte Science Laboratories for Youth on the Edmond J. Safra campus of the Hebrew University at Givat Ram. The Authority for Community and Youth has also provided social activities and classes on the history of Jerusalem, with one group doing a guided tour of the Old City. Many of the Hebrew University students who regularly teach at the Belmonte Labs have volunteered their time to teach the youngsters.

The school pupils have been accommodated at the on-campus Beit Bretter youth hostel and have also met with local youngsters. Last week, they attended the activities of the local branch of the Israel Scouts movement and, this past Friday night, were hosted for Shabbat eve dinner at the homes of students from the Hebrew University High School, which is situated on the Safra campus.

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to host these children from the Gaza periphery, giving them a few days respite from the shelling of their area and at the same time offering them quality scientific enrichment. The students have been enthused about the program and have even asked to come back again,” said Prof. Avishai Dekel, head of the Hebrew University’s Authority for Community and Youth.

Photo shows youngsters at the Belmonte Science Laboratories for Youth (photo: Sasson Tiram)

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