These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

To the incoming Pardes student

Posted on July 11, 2014 by Rachel Bikofsky

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r4ch31bTo the incoming Pardes student who’s watching the news and feeling anxious,

I know how it is. You’re reading the headlines about everything going on in Israel and you’re thinking, “Wait, am I sure I want to go over there?” Allow me to be the voice that speaks insistently in your ear and says, “Yes, you do! Come!”

For sure, this IS a tense time, and there ARE unknowns about what lies ahead. But the fact remains that Jerusalem is, by and large, a safe city where life continues as usual. A few hours ago, an alert siren sounded over the city (only the second one we’ve had, by the way!). I was walking home from Pardes when it began, and I ducked into the stairwell of a nearby apartment building to wait it out. When I resumed walking home, two local guys reassured me that everything was “beseder,” and not fifteen minutes later, I was in the shuk at Mahane Yehuda listening to a shopkeeper yelling to the crowds about how he was selling figs for only 8 shekels. At no time did I actually feel acutely unsafe, and at no time did I think, “Get me out of here!” The truth is that I am an anxious, risk-averse person and yet there is nowhere I would rather be right now, than in Israel.

There are amazing things waiting for you here, especially at Pardes. I have spent three summers in their summer program and can honestly say it has been a positively transformative experience. Just this week, my chevrutot and I have explored sections of Sefer Bamidbar, debated about the nature of sin and repentance, and unpacked the history and meaning behind the Shema and its blessings. There really is nowhere else I could have had those discussions with such dedicated teachers and eager classmates, and I wouldn’t want to give up that experience just because there are some extra safety guidelines to take into consideration. I don’t want you to miss out, either!

This is a challenging time to be in Israel, but it is also a beautiful time to be in Israel. Give yourself the opportunity to experience the overwhelming good, in spite of the little bit of negative. I feel confident that you won’t be sorry!

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,