From Jeff Kaye , Vice President for Public Affairs and Resource Development

The BGU family was hard hit by the events of October 7th, but rose up to meet the challenge. The following pages will touch on some of our stories but we focus on bringing you news of the BGU community’s resilience – what people are doing here and abroad to ensure that we emerge at the end of it all stronger than ever.

Dear members of the global BGU family, I am writing these words during very difficult days to take a moment to express our deepest gratitude for the extraordinary support you've shown to Ben Gurion University of the Negev since the horrific attack by Hamas terrorists that occurred on October 7. Your unwavering encouragement and mobilization have been instrumental in our journey to healing and resilience, during times that are also not easy for members of the Jewish community individuals like you has been a beacon of hope for our BGU community and, in particular for the families who have tragically lost loved ones at the hands of cruel terrorists. I personally delivered many of your letters, filled with heartfelt messages of solidarity, and even in these darkest days, I saw how they provided immeasurable comfort and strength, giving the bereaved families a powerful sense of not being alone in their grief and struggle for recovery. I know that you join our prayer that every hostage will return without delay to the families that love them so much. and Israel supporters overseas. The outpouring of support from

It is in times of darkness, where your participation in an emergency zoom briefing, your messages of solidarity and your generosity to assist those who have paid the ultimate price, remind us of the profound bonds that connect us across the globe. As we navigate the challenges that follow the attack on Israel, and the war forced upon us to eradicate the threat, we commit to you that we will continue our mission of providing quality education, fostering innovation, and contributing to the betterment of society. All of these tasks are now even more critical as we undertake, in the spirit of David Ben-Gurion, to rebuild the Negev, the region that has suffered so much destruction in the last few weeks. We move forward in the face of adversity with strength and hope, thanks to you, and together we will rebuild, heal, and continue our mission of making the world a better place. Warm regards, Jeff


From Prof. Daniel Chamovitz , President

Dear friends, Over the initial three weeks following the devastating events of October 7, I communicated with you daily, delineating not just the events that unfolded, but the emotional landscape of our university and broader community. As we attended funerals and shivas, I relayed stories of both unimaginable loss and heroic resilience – accounts that speak to the very core of who we are. Our institution, closely woven into the fabric of Israeli society, was deeply affected. Even today, we are particularly concerned about our student Noa Argamani who remains a hostage in Gaza, and we worry about our sons and daughters defending Israel on its borders. These weeks have been marked by catastrophic loss, but even amid the desolation, glimmers of hope persist. The indomitable spirit of Ben-Gurion University and indeed, of Israel herself, has not dimmed. While we have sustained wounds that will reverberate for years to come, our essence, though shook, remains unbroken.

simultaneously robust yet shattered. This sentiment, I surmise, is felt not only here but also among our supporters worldwide. Your outpouring of letters and unsolicited offers of assistance fortifies my own resolve. Though the frequency of these missives has lessened, this moment – one month into this ongoing war – offers a reflective opportunity. Enclosed, you will find an anthology of testimonies, commentary, and captured moments of our staff and students who are volunteering, serving in the reserves, and caring for their community. An anthology of BGU at war. I assure you that we will continue to maintain open channels of communication. We will continue to document not just our struggles but also our strategies for the future. Ben Gurion University will soon transition from crisis response to its historical mandate – a mandate that has guided us for over half a century – of serving as the catalyst for growth and development in the Negev.

I extend my deepest gratitude for your continued words of encouragement and tangible support. Your solidarity is not merely a source of comfort; it is a pillar of our strength. Know this: neither Israel nor Ben-Gurion University stand alone in this tumultuous period. Together, we shall overcome; together, we shall rebuild. Danny

I wrote about a-integration, the emotional paradox of feeling



A University on the Frontlines

Israel suffered horrific losses on October 7th and the ensuing weeks. The Negev bore the brunt of it, and with it the BGU family.


ISRAEL* 1400 murdered 28 communities and towns affected BGU* 16 BGU community members murdered (students, staff, faculty and retirees)

239 hostages

45 close relatives of BGU community members murdered

Thousands displaced from their homes 4 hostages


of the student

body called up for reserve duty

* Data as of November 1, 2023. Information remains incomplete.



6 MEDIC under IDF medical teams undergo trauma training at the Field Family Medical Simulation Center. October 24, 2023

Dr. Oren Wacht talks about the most difficult day of his career as a paramedic and his students who underwent a baptism by fire saving lives On October 7th, as the first victims were arriving at Soroka University Medical Center, BGU students and graduates in a range of healthcare professions underwent a baptism by fire in impossible, unimaginable conditions, as they helped tend to hundreds of victims with varying degrees of injury. Drawing on their resourcefulness and still incomplete training, they assisted the more experienced medical Their mentor, Dr. Oren Wacht, head of the BGU Department of Emergency Medicine and an active paramedic with Magen David Adom, was already on board one of those first ambulances that raced to Soroka. On that never ending first day, Dr. Wacht moved from one bloody scene to the next, treating dozens of wounded, sometimes under fire. Once he had delivered the wounded to the emergency room, he didn’t think twice about turning right around and returning to the battlefield. He was pulled over multiple times along the way as wounded soldiers and policemen were transferred to his care. Dr. Wacht shared some of his experiences of those traumatic events in a long interview with BGU Radio: "We stopped bleeding. We put people out to help them deal with the intensity of the pain. There are people here with us today who would have died if we hadn't treated them." In the same breath, Dr. Wacht praises the soldiers who saved their brothers in arms who were wounded on the battlefield. "I also treated wounded who received first aid in the field. The medics, together with untrained soldiers, gave them inspiring first aid. Without them, their comrades might not have survived." teams perform countless life-saving operations. For students and graduates of the Department of Emergency Medicine, theory became practice instantaneously.

Dr. Oren Wacht in uniform, in the immediate days following the attack. Photo: Courtesy

It all began with the cacophony of sirens that pierced the quiet holiday morning across large parts of Israel. "I woke up to the sirens, got myself together, put on a uniform. I was sent to Ofakim and the Gaza envelope settlements. From r Fire



eight in the morning till ten at night, we treated dozens of wounded. The next day, on Sunday morning, I was officially drafted and have been on reserve duty ever since." Dr. Wacht quickly realized where the situation was headed. "I saw the wounded and it was clear to me that this was a complex, difficult and dangerous event. I switched into intense action 'mode'. In those critical first hours, many of my students who had completed their degree in emergency medicine worked alongside me. This was their first experience with such a difficult event. Their education was a three-year long process, and they were supposed to gradually become professionals. Here, the circumstances shortened that process.” Two close friends, senior doctors at Soroka, were among the victims of the massacre and Oren is still having trouble accepting their loss. "They were more than close friends, they were like members of my family." This was different than any other previous experience, Dr. Wacht said. “This time I had the feeling that it was endless, never-ending. I found myself in situations where there were four people with gunshot wounds in the ambulance at the same time and I was completely alone with them. During Operation Protective Edge in 2014, in comparison, I intermittently treated individual wounded soldiers, and things were relatively normal." In the first days of the war, terrorists still roamed the roads that served as transport routes for evacuation and rescue vehicles, which made the task even more complicated. "The mortal danger was palpable; we treated the wounded under fire. I had never experienced such a level of risk," he says candidly. Dr. Wacht, now 49, travelled to India for his “post-army” trip and volunteered at a hospice there. That was where he realized that his vocation in life was to take care of people, and this led him to a career as a paramedic. Later, he studied for a doctorate in emergency medicine at Ben-Gurion University while working as a paramedic at Magen David Adom. As a lecturer and then as head of the department, he teaches his students how to function in volatile situations without losing their cool. He was instrumental in the establishment of Field Family Medical Simulation Center, where training involves the simulation of real scenarios, and now serves as its academic director. Being a paramedic means choosing a way of life based on helping others. "It is a profession that envelops you in all areas of life; a world in itself that is very challenging", he

explains. "It gives you the privilege to stand by people's side in their most challenging moments in life, and sometimes this is no less important than CPR. You need to put yourself in the shoes of the patient and their family. They expect 100 percent of your attention, and you should treat each patient as if they were a member of your own family." As the war now stretches into its second month, Dr. Oren Wacht eyes the future with a sober gaze. "Take a deep breath. We have been through a collective traumatic experience, an extreme situation. For one’s personal resilience, it’s important to be active – anything from helping harvest cucumbers in the western Negev to volunteering at the hospital. Don’t sink into depression; spending entire days in front of the TV watching the news is definitely not recommended. We are strong and we will get through this too." For the entire interview with Dr. Oren Wacht on BGU Radio (in Hebrew):


Medical Simulation Center Prepares Medical Teams for War The Field Family Medical Simulation Center in the Rachel and Max Javit Medical Simulation and Classroom Building – inaugurated just last year – offers state-of-the-art medical simulation rooms for the training of doctors, nursing staff, and paramedics. These simulation rooms meticulously reflect real-life medical scenarios, from mastering cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) techniques to life-saving procedures for trauma victims, such as stopping bleeding, airway management, and emergency surgeries. Menachem Blumenthal, administrative director of the Field Family Medical Simulation Center, commented on the Center's switch to a field hospital-style training facility, saying: "Since October 7, many medical teams, from the army and civilian organizations, have been asking to train at our simulation center, and we are trying to accommodate them all. On routine days, students, military, and police personnel train with us hoping their services will not be needed. Unfortunately, now it is "for real.” The simulation center’s innovative approach, including the use of advanced simulators and a trauma room, has been significant in the preparation of many IDF teams in recent days and these sessions will continue as needed.

Sahar Gavish of the Field Family Medical Simulation Center helps train IDF Medical Teams, October 24, 2023



"For the sake of every Jew around the world, stay strong, keep praying, and never give up."

Love Letters

In just 3 weeks we received over 260 letters from our friends around the world and distributed them to the grieving families. Our heartfelt thanks to all of you – in Argentina, South Africa, Switzerland, Canada, Israel, UK, USA, and Australia – for this touching gesture.

"My heart, my tears, and my giant hug are there with you, all of you, always."

״Know that those of us in the Montreal Jewish Community,

especially those like us who actively support Ben-Gurion University […] stand with you. You are not alone!״


"Your American friends stand with you and are holding you close."

s to Israel

"Just as the people of New York have rebuilt, but not forgotten, I hope that you and your family and Israel will begin to heal and rebuild soon."



Friday 09:50 – We have just left the David Hotel by the Dead Sea. Sitting shiva there is Dr. Rivka Manor, the head of Prof. Amir Sagi’s lab. Her mother was murdered in Kibbutz Be’eri, one of the places where the death toll is beyond all comprehension. It turns out that the whole family are connected, in one way or another, to BGU. They either studied there or will be studying there. Rivka’s nephew is supposed to be starting electrical engineering this academic year – he is presumed to be amongst those kidnapped in Gaza or dead and not yet identified, and his brother was also murdered. Unbearable pain, yet the family are united, strong, dignified, and already talking about how they will return to the Kibbutz. Unimaginable strength of conviction and love of the land they farmed. I take leave feeling that I am the one who has been comforted. Friday 12:30 – Guido moved to Israel with his parents and sister four years ago from Argentina. They settled in Kibbutz Ein haShlosha which was founded by Argentinian Olim. He is a 2nd year student of politics & government and European studies. All four were in their safe room for 8 hours with little water, no food and almost no external communication, as terrorists ransacked their house and tried to break in. Rescue eventually arrived and Guido told me how his mind from the Rector's wartime

diary Prof. Chaim Hames visited the scene of the Nova nature party and Kibbutz Be'eri with a delegation of university rectors on November 2, 2023.

BGU Rector Prof. Chaim Hames has been posting daily diary-like entries online since the October 7th attacks. The following excerpts provide an up close and personal picture of the University at war and its impact

on the BGU community. To read more, look for Chaim on Facebook (

Friday, Oct. 20 Friday morning 8:00 – Coffee in the kitchen and preparing my schedule for the day. I am going to drive to Eilat, via the Dead Sea, to comfort mourners from the university community and, hopefully, give support to members of our community from the communities along the Gaza Strip border who are being put up in Eilat hotels.


Tuesday 11:30 – In Moshav Gilat, not far from Ofakim and Sderot, where terrorists roamed the streets 18 days ago. I am there to comfort Aliza, the legendary administrator of the Middle East Department. Her brother and his son were fishing!!! It turns out that one of the other fishermen survived, though badly wounded, and he told the family how they managed to enter a “migunit” – mobile safe rooms which dot the area around the Gaza strip – on the beach, but the terrorist murderers threw in a hand grenade. Aliza’s nephew dived on top of it, a feat of bravery of the highest order, but both he and his father were killed by the explosion. The family only learned of this when the other fisherman regained consciousness some days later. It took another week to identify the bodies. Tuesday 12:45 – Back at the university and we make public the decision about not starting the academic year before the military reserves start being released back to Civvy Street. We put a possible date (December 3rd), but it is totally arbitrary. We also announce that the academic year will have two full semesters even if this means teaching throughout the summer. All the universities want our students serving in the army to know that we are there for them and that they should concentrate on their missions knowing that they will not be missing studies. It is the only thing we can do. With some 30% of students, faculty, and staff in the military, with hundreds of families of our students and staff uprooted from their homes and not knowing when they will be able to return, with the war still going on, there can be no business as usual. Thursday, Oct 26 Day 20 of the war and the uncertainty of where all this is going is paralyzing. So, I take a walk around the campus to talk to people and see how they are coping. It is inspiring to meet people and hear what they have to say, and I discover just how much the events of the past few weeks have impacted on our campus. One person’s cousin was a policeman who was killed at the Nova nature party. He had a pistol with him, but it was useless against the dozens of well-armed murderers. Others have children who have been called up or are doing their army service and are either on the border with Gaza or up north. Some students I talk to are on their way to the labs to try and catch up with research. They have been volunteering, but feel the need to try and get back to some sort of routine. I meet faculty who are concerned about how their international colleagues are reacting and responding to the massacre. I am surprised to come across a unit where everyone is at work – they decided that being together and concentrating on what they need to do is better than sitting at home, so they come, work, laugh, talk, and cry. Did I say inspiring?

was so focused after having been in survival mode for so long, that when they exited the safe room, the first thing he saw was that the terrorists had taken his student card which had a chip to get into the student village at BGU where he lives. Guido, with incredible presence of mind given the situation, called the University Security to tell them about this and ask them to change the codes. I am blown away (sorry for the Americanism) by this story! Sunday, Oct. 22 Sunday 19:00 - Back home and about to start a Zoom meeting and the sirens go off. We have had two days of respite so I can’t really complain. But then it strikes me again – in what place in the civilized world would rockets being fired indiscriminately at civilians be acceptable. Yet, the world seems to think that here it is acceptable, or maybe, we have accepted that it is a “normal” part of our lives… Tuesday, Oct. 24 Tuesday 07:34 – Day 18 of this nightmare has started. Please tell me that this is all just a bad, very bad, dream! My phone pings – whatsApp message – Nir Forti’s body has been identified, the funeral will be tomorrow. Nir has been missing since October 7th, his family have been on a roller-coaster since then, now it is over. Nir was murdered along with his girlfriend. Now I know where I will be at 11 am tomorrow. Tuesday 09:49 – I speak with Tova Forti, Nir’s mum. A distinguished Bible scholar at BGU, retired the year before last. I wish I knew what to say; what can one say? I say what I can and listen.

The water tower at Kibbutz Be'eri, decorated with a message of defiance: "This is our home". November 2, 2023



BGU's Global Family Stands with Israel

We have been hearing from our friends around the world about initiatives in support of Israel in their communities. We are heartened by everything you have done. Thank you!


#Argentina The Argentinian Jewish community is united in

for Jewish and non-Jewish Argentinian advocates to provide a balanced and nuanced picture of the situation, with an emphasis on the effects of the war on the BGU community. The Jewish community is experiencing a sharp rise in antisemitism, but it has come together to protect itself.

support of Israel. A massive rally in central Buenos Aires concluded with singing Hatikvah bringing tears to everyone’s eyes. Nava Rubenzadeh and Hernán Najenson of the Argentinian Friends organized a lecture




#Australia In moments of pain, we find beauty. Melbourne cycling groups rode for Hope on Wheels, a group of Israelis providing bicycles and moments of joy to children impacted by terrorism. 80+ riders and a generous anonymous donor raised $20k (over 200 bicycles) to bring joy to these brave kids Alon Cassuto, Melbourne #Belgium Since the beginning of the war, the Belgian Jewish community mobilized support through a combination of (i) psychological and practical support to families of the victims or stranded in Belgium; (ii) donations for soldiers and affected citizens in Israel (in cash and kind), (iii) practical actions to create awareness of the horror. We will now continue communicating with BGU friends in Belgium to invite them to donate to members


#France On October 9th, the city of Paris paid a heartfelt tribute to Israeli victims at the conclusion of a demonstration organized by CRIF at the Place du Trocadéro. The 20,000 demonstrators were overwhelmed with profound emotions when the Star of David shone on the Eiffel Tower to the tune of Hatikvah. This star symbolized benevolence. However, when it appears on the walls of Paris, it signifies violence.

#Italy There have been expressions of solidarity with Israel all over Italy. Unfortunately, mainstream media showed a false equivalence. But the government was firm in its condemnation of Hamas. The Jewish communities and the Israeli students organized events all over the country - in Milano, Roma, and Genova - filled with Israeli flags. Andrea Jarach, Milano


#Canada BGU Canada actively participated in rallies showcasing support for Israel in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg. Our commitment to bolstering BGU and aiding the Negev’s revival fundraiser’s focus shifted from climate change to providing support for BGU’s immediate needs, amassing $1.3 million in donations. Simultaneously, across the nation, we initiated BGU’s Resilience Fund, dedicated to raising funds for this same important cause. All donations will assist with vital aid like psychological support for those impacted by the conflict, and shelter for displaced families. Mitchell Oelbaum, Toronto is stronger than ever. In Toronto, our annual

of the BGU community. Valentine and Philippe Mauchard, Brussels




#Switzerland The Geneva Jewish Community and the Swiss Friends of BGU rallied around Israel, calling for the release of the hostages, organizing prayers and weekly demonstrations in front of the United Nations or the University of Geneva. At the same time, we have seen, like everywhere else in Europe, an increase in antisemitism, with more than 150 anti-Jewish actions since October 7 in the French part of Switzerland only. The Swiss Friends are also of course raising funds for the BGU emergency assistance funds. Lionel Halpérin, Geneva

Argentina Italy

United Kingdom

#South Africa As we mark a month since the horrific attack on Israel on October 7, the South African Jewish community remains heartbroken for the hostages and their families. As a community we are experiencing an extremely hostile approach by the South African government towards Israel. We will not despair and we will prevail, as a community and as a nation. We are also thankful for the many organizations working tirelessly to bring the hostages home. Thank you to those who have been involved in hanging posters on the Sea Point Promenade, balloons up at the Mandela Bridge or billboards in the CBD in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Daniel Yakcobi, SAICC, Cape Town & Johannesburg

#United Kingdom The UK Jewish community sprang into action within hours. Teams of volunteers at local synagogues packed clothes, toiletries, phone batteries, etc. for the soldiers and for people who lost their homes. Huge fundraisers have taken place. We have held rallies to remind the world about the hostages. We are all traumatised and our hearts are broken. We mourn with Israel. Antisemitism in schools, universities and in the workplace is rising and is terrifying. We need to make sure Israel is strong and the worldwide Jewish family knows there is a safe place for all. Ann Berger, London





#Israel First, I want to express my condolences and share my pain at the loss of 16 members of the University community, students and faculty, and the difficult time we find ourselves in. I want to send all of you a huge hug from here, on the northern border where I’m protecting the communities.

#USA A4BGU held its Annual Board Meeting in New York on October 22 24 and its Annual Tribute Brunch in Philadelphia on November 5. Importantly, we have mobilized the NEGEV PREVAILS campaign to raise awareness and resources for BGU’s Emergency Response. To date, we raised approximately $5.5M. Unfortunately, like much of the world, we are At the end of the day, we will return to the benches of the academy, we will return to educate students, we will return to rebuild this country, because we have no other choice. We have no other country and we must not allow the enemy, even after such a grave failure as October 7, even one step

closer. We will win, both because we have no other choice and because we are a strong nation. Dr. Yom Tov Samia, Maj.-Gen. (Res.)

experiencing pro-Hamas and antisemitic threats on college campuses and in our cities across the US. We stand proudly and firmly with Israel, our community at BGU and the Negev. TOGETHER WE WILL PREVAIL. Gary DeBode, New York




There is not a single aspect of this war that does not affect BGU student Ester Cohen personally Ester is remarkably composed as we sat down for coffee last week. It is only an occasional sheen in her eyes, a tremble in her voice, and the pause that extends a second too long that hints at the turmoil roiling underneath. Why A Life Ester Cohen recently completed a degree in psychology and is waiting to begin a clinical master's program Ester Cohen finished her undergraduate degree in behavioral sciences earlier this year and is working in the Department of Publications and Media Relations while she prepares for the entrance exam to the clinical psychology program.


remarkably? Because there is not a single aspect of this war that does not affect her personally and intimately. Her study plans were disrupted, her family scattered across the country after the village she grew up in was evacuated, her partner and two brothers were called up for reserve duty and there were numerous victims among her circle of friends. It is only by chance that Ester’s partner, Ben Shultz, also a BGU student, chose to go to a nature party in the Arava on October 7 and not the one that turned so deadly near Reim. On October 7, Ester was woken by increasingly worried phone calls from family and friends at the apartment she shares with Ben in Beer-Sheva. She managed to reach her parents and siblings who live in Mavki’im, a moshav 7.2 kilometers from the northern border of Gaza. For now, they were alright. Her friend Alon Amir, another BGU student who is from Kfar Azza, came over to her apartment to try and make sense of the calls and messages they were getting: of terrorists in the streets, families and friends huddling in their secure rooms. They were still together at 4 pm that day when Alon found out his father had been murdered protecting his sisters and a niece. He had put the girls in the shower in the secure room, but stayed in the outer room himself, figuring, tragically and correctly, as it turned out, that once the

Ester and Ben had a few hours during a brief leave, Oct. 15, 2023. Photo: Courtesy


terrorists discovered him, they would shoot him but move on thinking he was alone. Ben returned from the nature party in the Arava with Nave Avraham, another student, during the day. Nave’s mother survived by hiding in their secure room in Nahal Oz. By the time they fell asleep, exhausted at 3 AM, Ben had already gotten his call to report for duty.

Ester and Ben drove to his parents in Kiryat Ono near Tel Aviv and from there to an induction center where he was kitted out and headed north, where he is now serving as an engineering officer. For now, Ester is staying with Ben’s parents in Kiryat Ono because her and Ben’s apartment in Beer-Sheva does not have a secure room and she does not feel safe staying there alone. Ester’s village, Mavki'im, has been largely evacuated. Her parents are in Eilat with her youngest brother . A sister-



in-law whose husband was called up for reserve duty is staying in Kibbutz Tzova near Jerusalem. Another brother and his wife are in Tel Aviv. So if her younger brother, Gal, 24, gets leave from his reserve duty up north, he has nowhere to go. So, Ester keeps a safe place at Ben’s parents’ house for him. A long history with Gaza It is often forgotten that many of the families who live around Gaza once lived in Gaza in Gush Katif. Ester was born and raised until the age of 10 in Rafiah Yam, “an idyllic spot in the southernmost corner of Gaza right on the water. We were just 24 families.” Of her childhood, Ester says, ironically, “it was a great place to grow up. We had no worries. There was a kind of innocence about us. The backdrop of our lives was soldiers and jeeps, but we felt safe.” After the disengagement in 2005, her family moved to Moshav Mavki’im. Ester, who turns 28 this week, is one

of five siblings, with two older brothers and two younger brothers. Omri, 32, was called up at the beginning of the war. She thinks he is in the north. Periodically, he sends a message that he’s going dark for a while and will be unreachable. Growing up in Mavki’im, Ester and her friends spent most of their time outdoors. Birthdays and graduations were always celebrated on the Zikim beach, where terrorists came from the sea on that fateful Saturday. Some of the terrorists stopped there had detailed plans of the layout of Mavki’im, which house was whose and who had a dog, in their pockets. “I know every street, every turn, they needed to come through to get to Kfar Azza, to Sderot. When I saw a picture of a terrorist jeep on a street in Sderot, that really got to me, because I know exactly where they had to go to reach there. Those were the streets of my childhood, and it’s hard knowing that these terrorists traveled the same route sowing destruction,” she says.

The Cohen Family in better times. Left to right: Matan, Omri, Ofek, Ester, Gal, Osnat, and Moshe. 2020. Photo: Courtesy


Israel's president, Isaac Herzog (left), visited Ben's (right) unit on October 17, 2023. Photo: Courtesy

Ester is also struck by the randomness of who survived and who did not, whose house is still standing and whose was consumed by fire. “Alon’s house in Kfar Azza is still standing, but the ones on either side were completely destroyed,” she explains in a vain bid to impose some sort of order to random chaos. At some point, she saw a video of a guy leaping out of his window into a passing IDF jeep in Kfar Azza on the news. Later, her friend Simon Peretz called and said, “Did you see that guy jumping out the window? That was me.” “What crazy luck that a jeep was passing, and he seized the chance to escape. People in the next house over from him were murdered,” Ester says quietly. This is not the family’s first brush with danger, but it is the most serious. Moshe, 59, Ester’s father, is a staunch Likudnik who builds security fences and secure installations for the Ministry of Defense. During a terrorist attack on Morag, his close friend and colleague was killed right beside him. This was much worse. “I could picture him with his head in his hands as he talked to me. He was so upset. He couldn’t understand how this could have happened and where the army was,” she recalls.

Meanwhile, Moshe and Osnat, Ester’s mother, are refugees in Eilat. They need to explain to their grandchildren how there are explosions over the city despite having told them there were no rockets in Eilat. Ofek, 19, Ester’s youngest brother, who is also with them in Eilat, was supposed to enlist in mid-October, but for now, his enlistment has been deferred. Under other circumstances, the disruption to Ester’s own future life path would be significant. Now, it pales in comparison. Ester fought hard to get into Ben-Gurion University, doing not one but two transfer programs until she was accepted as a second-year student in the behavioral sciences program. She had been studying intensely for the certification exam to be accepted into the master’s program in clinical psychology at BGU. Days and nights of studying, practice tests, endlessly reviewing the massive amounts of material the test covers. The test is offered once a year. The date for this year? October 10. Ester’s academic and professional life is on hold until she can take the test, which has yet to be rescheduled. But it almost doesn’t matter as she worries about Ben and her brothers on the frontlines and helps her parents and other family members with anything and everything she can.



The immediate BGU community in Israel has some 30,000 members and their families – students, faculty, administrative and technical staff, retirees, emeriti, and others. Then there are our alumni, and no less important, the Negev community as a whole. We have suffered devastating losses in life. More than 500 families of university community members were forced to evacuate from their homes in the western Negev, usually with just the clothes on their back, and are now living in temporary housing in Eilat, the Dead Sea and other parts of the country. Thousands have been called up for reserve service, in some cases, leaving spouses with young children behind. We are doing our best to support all our communities and their resilience.

A Strong Community for a Stronger Negev


BGU Supports Social Initiatives Dozens of proposals for initiatives and projects that will help IDF soldiers and civilians on the home front were submitted by university students and employees as part of a “call for proposals” through the Students □ Every BGU student, especially those who were supposed to start their studies this month, received a phone call from their department to see if they were alright and offer assistance. □ Early on, in the first week of the war, VERA (the committee of Israel university heads) agreed to postpone the beginning of the academic school year until most of the reservists are back home. It would be unfair to begin studies when 30% of our students are unable to attend. □ Students called up for reserve duty will receive a relief grant of NIS 1,200. □ Undergraduates who served at least two weeks in the reserves will be eligible to receive 2 course credits. Faculty and Staff □ The University established an aid fund for students, faculty and staff affected by the war. □ An action team connects people in need of accommodations with families willing to host them.

emergencies, an artificial intelligence based WhatsApp application that enables psychological help in war zones and among combat support personnel, a mobile laundry for soldiers, and support for children through BGU Radio.” Materials engineering student Ariel Harush created and leads a volunteer network of makers with 3d printers, called "3D Print 4 Israel". Together they have printed thousands of accessories requested by soldiers and medics at the battle front.

Department of Community Action, the Student Union and the Yazamut 360 Entrepreneurship Center. “We have all been enlisted today,” explains Adv. Vered Saroussi Katz, director of the Department of Community Action. “So far the response has been very impressive, and we look forward to more ideas that we can implement. We have already approved and funded 12 initiatives by students, employees and departments, including: 3D printing of models and medical equipment for

Materials engineering student Ariel Harush, initiator and leader of “3D Print 4 Israel”

□ Now that the university is adapting to a “war routine”, HR opened a daycare center on the Marcus Family Campus that will allow parents of children ages 3-12 to return to work while providing their children with a safe, educational and fun environment. □ A mental health first aid call center was opened to provide support to all members of the Ben-Gurion community and their families.

□ Another team of volunteers from across the university took on supporting the families of staff and faculty who have been called up for reserve duty. □ HR opened a dedicated WhatsApp community for parents, where resources, links and ideas for activities at home can be shared. □ An early childhood emergency call center was set up to provide parents with professional counseling.



Eilat Campus Embraces Evacuees

Community outreach □ The University made the U-Tel and some of our dormitories available to medical teams from across the country who came to help at Soroka, as well as to family members of casualties in the hospital. □ Countless volunteers from across the University helped at aid logistics centers throughout the city and country, organizing the donated goods, preparing kits, and distributing them to displaced families and soldiers.

Evacuated school children continue their education in the Eilat Campus. Photo: Dana Nadam

The culinary school kitchen at the Eilat campus fed hundreds daily. Photo: Dana Nadam

Ben-Gurion University’s Eilat campus opened its doors to residents of the South who left their homes. Dozens of families have been housed in the student dormitories, and campus staff are taking care of them. “Families who evacuated from Ofakim, Netivot, Sderot and Ashkelon came to us, and we are prepared, if necessary, to absorb even more residents, including those who left Kiryat Shmona,” said Eilat Campus Dean Prof. Ofer Ovadia. “The entire campus is committed to meeting the needs of students, families and evacuees who have come to us, and we do so with dedication and love.” Accommodation solutions were provided to dozens of preparatory students from Sderot who arrived in Eilat late at night, and every classroom has been taken over by some 600 elementary and high

school students, entire schools from Shaar Hanegev and Eshkol regional councils, who are in the city. In addition, housing assistance was provided to medical teams, including psychologists and psychiatrists, who came from central Israel to reinforce Yoseftal Hospital. The Eilat campus is home to an international school for culinary studies, and the knowledge accumulated by its graduates is being put to good use. In the first couple of weeks of the war, the campus’s kitchens fed hundreds of people, both those staying in student dormitories, and reservists and medical teams stationed in Eilat. “Everyone contributes whatever they can to the war effort, “said Ami Levy, head of the Eilat Campus administration. “We are working around the clock for the people staying with us during these difficult times.”

□ The University opened its doors to Lev Echad – an organization coordinating relief efforts – who used the basement of the Zlotowski building as a logistics center, and its study spaces for a massive call center manned by volunteers, many of them BGU students and staff. □ The Community Action Department launched the BGU For You Program, with student and staff volunteers visiting families of reservists and elderly.


Students and staff from the Department of Environmental, Geoinformatics and Urban Planning Sciences helped harvest cherry tomatoes in Kmehin. Photo: Courtesy

□ Over 80 students from the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management,

□ The University launched BG-TV: a series of live online lectures on a wide range of timely topics by faculty members in all disciplines – the first week covered war-related issues in public health, ecology, history, philosophy, education, journalism, and more. □ The university administration approved organized departmental volunteer missions to support the home front, primarily in farms throughout the south.

led by six faculty members, volunteered to help organize and improve the methods and logistical operations of the civilian operations rooms that opened throughout the south. The teams were able to identify bottlenecks, and improve various processes and technological interfaces.

The Lev Ehad operations center coordinating civilian relief efforts in the Zlotowski Student Center. October 23, 2023

□ Students from the Perach project are working with families of enlisted reservists, to help with childcare and activities for young children. □ Over 30 students from the Charlotte B. and Jack J. Spitzer Department of Social Work are helping run activities for children of the evacuees in Eilat, Mitspe Ramon and Kramim.

"Every Hostage Has a Story" installation in the Zlotowski Student Center



Tomer Nobel, of the Department of Physical Therapy, organized a group of physiotherapists working with evacuees at the Dead Sea

□ The Student Union is involved in a range of initiatives, including the moving installation in the Zlotowski Student Center calling for the return of the hostages. □ Staff and students from the BGU Department of Physical Therapy are treating evacuees at the Dead Sea hotels as well as IDF troops at the battlefront. □ BGU Radio, an on-demand internet podcast network founded by BGU students, in collaboration with the Jusidman Science Center for Youth, set up a channel for evacuated children and youth staying in hotels throughout the south. The children are involved in producing podcasts that provide tools for dealing their situation. □ BGU Radio is also collaborating with the Israeli Spirit advocacy group in recording the testimonies of the October 7th massacre survivors. Social workers from BGU accompany the sessions.

□ Three students from the Department of Software and

This list cannot not do justice to the multitude of other initiatives and actions carried out by our various units, employees and students, all committed and dedicated to supporting both the home front and the frontlines.

Information Systems Engineering organized “For the Students”, a network of 200 volunteers offering free online tutoring via Zoom.

Marcus Family Campus daycare center. October 29, 2023


BGU students organized an evening of song and memory to mark a month to the October 7th massacre. November 7, 2023

To help with BGU's emergency response contact your local associates office or the Department of Resource Development at

Editor: Elana Chipman Editorial Staff: Ehud Zion Waldoks, Haim Zalkai, Diti Horvitz-Arad Production: Ester Cohen, Noya Yossef, Noa Fisherman Photos: Dani Machlis Design: Orit Elzner

Produced by the Department of Publications and Media Relations, Osnat Eitan , Director Division for Public Affairs and

Resource Development, Jeff Kaye , Vice President November 2023

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