A pervasive calm envelops the young city of Tel Aviv, affectionately nicknamed “The Bubble” by locals. Carved from raw desert just one century ago, Tel Aviv has become Israel’s financial and cultural capital, a metropolis of Bauhaus architecture and luxury high-rises.
Outside the tiny sidewalk cafés that dot every street corner, couples drink tea flavored with nana (mint). Scattered along the rocky shores of the Mediterranean Sea, young people play games of matkot (beach paddleball). Looking around the peaceful oasis, it’s easy to forget that Tel Aviv is in the middle of one of the most turbulent regions in the world.
Despite Israel’s heightened tension with Syria students have continued to choose Tel Aviv as a study-abroad destination.
The skyline of Tel Aviv, as seen from one of its high-rise buildings.
“I feel safe [in] Tel Aviv because there hasn’t been one time yet where I’ve felt that my safety was in jeopardy,” said Indiana University junior Elliot Rahimi, who made his 15th trip to The Bubble to study there this spring. “From the airports to the malls, there is security on patrol everywhere.”
As thousands of Hamas rockets rained down on southern Israel late last year, most Tel Avivians experienced the attacks the same way their foreign counterparts did: on television. So it was especially shocking when Tel Aviv experienced its first rocket attack in 21 years. Just days after, a bomb detonated aboard a civilian bus, injuring 28 and marking the city’s first terrorist attack since the 2006 Lebanon War. For many, the incident brought back painful memories of recurrent bus bombings during the last decade’s Palestinian uprising.
Yet in spite of the tension they face from surrounding countries, Ruthie Berber, a Tel Aviv University student, said she feels that Tel Avivians have remained as resilient as ever.
“People act as though there wasn’t a war two weeks ago,” she said. “Lots of people are here studying abroad at my university and they are safe and happy.”
Keith Berman, director and co-founder of Aardvark Israel, a gap-year program, echoed similar sentiments.
“As far as we know, only one student canceled for [this] semester due to security,” he said. “I just went to Florida to recruit and more students came to hear me than usual, I think because they had Israel on their minds.”
Rotem Regev, coordinator of Aardvark’s Tel Aviv division, also said he believes that students traveling to Tel Aviv this semester will not be affected by current news headlines.
“There’s no risk at the moment, and there’s no need to change plans,” he said. “If you take precautions, it’s less dangerous than crossing the street, if you ask me. You have to take it in stride. The fact is, Israel has overcame worse. If we hadn’t, we wouldn’t be a country today.”
President Obama’s administration remains confident that his visit to Israel this March will “offer the opportunity to reaffirm the deep and enduring bonds between the United States and Israel and to discuss the way forward on a broad range of issues of mutual concern, including, of course, Iran and Syria,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney in USA TODAY.
Until a peaceful resolution comes, Israelis will continue to repeat a familiar collective sentiment in the face of hardship: Life goes on.
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