Negev students start college wary of Kassams [p. 4]

October 23, 2006 03:33
2 minute read.

For many students, Sunday morning's anxieties included waking up early and making it to class on time for the first day of university. Students at Sapir College, however, had deeper concerns. Located in the northern Negev and within range of Kassams fired from Gaza, Sapir College proved to be a vulnerable site on September 21, when a Kassam landed in one of its classrooms. Fortunately it was during summer vacation, and the classroom was unoccupied at the time. Nonetheless, as one student pointed out, "You only realize how serious the situation is when it hits close to home." Despite the frightening reality of life near Gaza, students were in high spirits Sunday. The college even saw an increase of 150 students in the academic department. Over 8,000 students are currently enrolled, including foreigners. The dormitories are teeming with people, with not a single bed free, and surrounding kibbutzim are filled with "Sapirim." The college's president, Ze'ev Tzahor, called Sapir a "flourishing place." Nevertheless, there is still an undercurrent of worry among the students, said Tzahor, who described their dual emotions of excitement for the new academic year and worry about Kassams landing on their doorsteps. Sivan Harel, a student of the summer program, told The Jerusalem Post that she "came to the college early to avoid driving between 7 and 7:30 in the morning," when the firing of Kassams was usually at its peak. Dean of students Alon Gayer said he believed Sapir was just like any other part of Israel and vulnerable to attack from one of Israel's enemies. Students and teachers had to learn to continue their daily routines, he added. As for the future of Sapir College, Gayer said the government must understand that "this is the new border of Israel" and respond by "granting more scholarships to students and encouraging living in the area." The government has, however, been proactive in at least one aspect. Aside from standard bomb shelters, concrete rooms have been built above ground, giving shelter to students in case of impending missiles. Daniel Duvdevani, a student at Sapir who lives nearby in Kerem Shalom, explained that more than anxiety and worry, there was a pervading sense of curiosity about what to expect from this adjusted college life. "Sapir College is in a beautiful place," he said. "I imagine this is what the country used to be like at the time of its establishment, everyone helping each other like in a kibbutz. We feel that we need to be here, so we'll take one for Israel."

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