Throughout the past week, groups of volunteers from abroad, particularly from France and North America, have been coming to work at the vegan restaurant, aiding in packing food for reserve duty soldiers. Because the restaurant is tiny, accommodating and finding tasks for approximately 15 people each day can be challenging. We truly value their eagerness to help, and it falls upon me to assign tasks that help them feel connected to the soldiers receiving the food. Don’t misunderstand me—the various tasks I assign to the volunteers are indeed necessary. However, having so many people doesn’t really expedite the process. Nevertheless, it’s heartening to witness the commitment of those young people who have chosen to come to Israel and contribute to the war efforts. This reminds me of stories about volunteers, including the renowned Leonard Cohen, who came to assist Israel during the Yom Kippur War in 1973.
But many of us have grown weary with this ongoing war. There appears to be no end in sight, the hostages are still in Gaza, and over 200,000 evacuees from the south and north are scattered across the country. Besides most academic institutions have not started the academic year.
In the meantime there are numerous lectures, and discussions on zoom among members of the academic world. On Thursday December 28th, Professor David Levi Faur from the Hebrew University interviewed one of the 200,000 evacuees, it was an inspiring interview. Ayelet Shavit, is a professor of Philosophy of Science from Tel Hai College in the northern border. She was evacuated from her home in Kibbutz Kfar Giladi at the beginning of the war. Normally, these two professors would have conversed comfortably from their respective studies. However, this time, the two sides of the screen presented a stark contrast: Levi Faur sat at home in his beautiful study, filled with books, and Shavit sat in an empty room with bare walls. These settings immediately highlighted the difference between those whose life was turned up side down and those who were more fortunate. It transpired that Shavit’s husband stayed in the Kibbutz as part of a unit guarding the area, and her two sons are in the army—one in Gaza. Thus she was evacuated with her younger son who is in his last year of high school. It was almost impossible for her son to find a school that would accept a student, even an evacuee, in his last year and he wasted valuable time. Yet, despite these hardships, Shavit didn’t lose her optimism. and preferred to focus on more hopeful topics.
When Levi Faur inquired about the most meaningful aspect of her work at Tel Hai, Shavit promptly answered https://www.telhai.ac.il/sites/default/files/2023-10/Town%20Sqaure%20Academia%20-%20The%20Guardian.pdf “Town Square Academia,” which is a collaboration between the college and the community, particularly in Kiryat Shmona. The initiative aimed to offer free interesting and relevant courses in the community. Shavit initiated this project in 2012 with one of her undergraduate students, Yael Silver. Today the project offers ten free courses in the community each year. Shavit emphasized that being a professor, having the freedom to think, write, teach and to live in the beautiful Upper Galilee is a great privilege. It was inspiring to listen to such a brave woman who, amid an unbearable crisis, remains hopeful.
To me, it appears to be a matter of choice. While life presents us challenges beyond our control, we still can choose how to respond. It is true that not everyone can manage it, but it seems that Shavit, who sees herself as both a teacher and educator, has chosen to be a role model for her family, her students, and her community. I have a feeling that it is a great coping mechanism.