In the early days of October, the lives of students at Tel Aviv University, including Yonatan Juhl and Carmel Cohen, took a sudden and dramatic turn. Following an increase in hostilities due to Hamas’s actions, these students, along with around 6,000 of their peers, were called up to serve in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). This mobilization occurred just as the 2023-24 academic year was about to begin, causing significant disruption to their educational pursuits.
University’s Measures to Address Delays
Faced with these extraordinary circumstances, Tel Aviv University had to postpone the start of the academic year multiple times, a total of four, to adapt to the situation of the students engaged in national defense. University President Prof. Ariel Porat expressed the university’s strong commitment to supporting these students, stating, “In light of our profound sense of responsibility, these courageous young individuals have paused their personal aspirations… it is our obligation to provide them with comprehensive academic and financial support.”
Customized Assistance for Students in Service
The university is preparing to provide bespoke tutoring and substantial scholarships, aiming to facilitate a smooth reintegration of these reservist students into university life. Danielle Zilber, the head of TAU’s Student Union, drew attention to the economic burdens faced by these students, emphasizing the importance of support for their tuition, living costs, and accommodation fees.
Individual Sacrifices and Anticipated Return
The story of Yonatan Juhl, a 27-year-old student of materials engineering and chemistry who was injured in combat, is particularly touching. Currently recovering, he looks forward to resuming his studies and pursuing a career as a research and development scientist specializing in energy applications. On the other hand, 26-year-old Carmel Cohen, an acting student and a captain in the Homefront Command’s National Aid Battalion, shares her experiences during these challenging times and her enthusiasm to return to her acting studies, with a goal to uplift others through her art.
Looking Ahead: A University’s Role in Rebuilding Dreams
The situation at Tel Aviv University is a microcosm of the larger challenge faced by educational institutions in conflict zones worldwide. Balancing the immediate needs of national defense with the long-term aspirations of young students is a complex task. As TAU prepares to reopen, it stands as a testament to resilience and adaptability, striving to support those who have served their country, ensuring that their academic and professional dreams remain within reach.