From Victims and Heroes: Reflections on Counterpoint Israel at a Time of War

by Shuki Taylor

There are 30 incredible Yeshiva University students in Israel right now on the Counterpoint Israel program. What makes them incredible is that they have chosen, of their own volition, to spend a summer in hot and humid development towns, teaching Israeli teens English and inviting them to discover their inner talents.

They could have taken a job, done an internship or gone on vacation. But the powerful forces of Giving were more powerful than the motivations of personal gain.

The winds of war and sounds of sirens threatened to stop them. These 30 passionate and energized students were asked to stop their work in Kiryat Gat and Kiryat Malachi – to stop the camps they were running – and move to a safer location in Jerusalem. Had they not been asked, they would not have left. Such is their dedication.

While in Jerusalem, YU’s Center for the Jewish Future Counterpoint Israel team, listening astutely to security developments and guidelines, made constant revisions to the program. Here a day of volunteering in Shaare Zeddek, here in Afikim. Some free time. A Shiur. Let’s wait, we said. Let’s buy time. See if things will get better.

And all this time, the students accepted everything with a smile, with dedication, with Emunah. They could have gone back home, to the safety of their parent’s home. But they stayed. And each siren – each run to the Miklat – was responded to with pulling out a guitar and singing songs of hope in the dark and stuffy bomb shelters.

These students are a lesson to Israel, to Judaism and to our enemies. Their passion is our future. Their determination is our hope.

The gifts they don’t realize they are giving are ones that I – as an Israeli – do recognize. Most often, when under attack, the persons being assaulted view themselves as victims. They are being victimized by the assaulter.

But that’s not what these YU students see. They don’t see victims being assaulted. They see heroes standing in the front line. This is probably true of any passionate supporter that is standing ‘behind the scenes.’ It’s a transference that provides resilience and hope.

These 30 YU students are giving 300 Israeli teens in Southern Israel the greatest gift of all: Teaching them that they are heroes, not victims. It’s remarkable. And its what makes us who we are.

Follow the Counterpoint Israel blog here.

Shuki Taylor,
17 Tammuz.
Yeshiva University in Israel, Jerusalem

Shuki Taylor
17 Tammuz
Yeshiva University in Israel, Jerusalem

Follow the Counterpoint Israel blog here.

Shuki Taylor is Director of Experiential Jewish Education at Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future.