Eager To Tell Israel's Story
being a tourist staying in a hotel and a student living for a
er passion for the people of Israel resonates in the
year with the knowledge that she is a walking target wherev-
simple, two-page letter she sent me, asking if she
er she goes. There are thousands of American graduates
could be a student correspondent for us as she
attending yeshivah and seminary in Israel, and I could be
spends the school year attending Michlelet Orot,
a women's college in the town of Elkana, a 45-minute d _ rive
She's only 18. But Kohn is smart enough to know the
northeast of Jerusalem.
danger that confronts her. Palestinian violence and terrorism
Rachel Kohn is a June graduate of Yeshivat Akiva in .
over the past 23 months have claimed at least 610 Israeli
Southfield. Her parents are Marilyn and Ken Kohn of West
Bloomfield, where the family belongs to the Sara Tugman
She says she would draw on her many Israeli friends and
Bais Chabad Torah Center.
acquaintances to share what life is like along the byways in
Kohn received deferred admission to Brandeis University
the region, not just Jerusalem's popular shopping district
in Waltham, Mass., to take part in Bat
along Ben Yehuda Street.
Tzion, a program for overseas high school
"I may be a young woman putting my life on the line to
graduates eager to continue their Jewish
further my education and stand up for what I believe in,"
studies while living with Israeli students on
she says, "but I have friends my age who have sacrificed so
much more than I experienced, and continue to experience
She arrived in time for the High
— things that no teenager, no human being, should ever go
Holidays. Says her father: "It's very impor-
tant for her to become part of Israel, and
Of course, she's talking about the young men and women
understand the people as opposed to just
who serve in the Israeli army. And I love the way she cap-
ROBERT A. visiting as a tourist or a student."
tured their maturity and courage:
I got to know Kohn as one of our teen
"Despite the dangers they face and the international
writers on the 2001 March of the Living.
ridicule that glares oppressively down on their government,
The annual experience takes teens from
these young adults still serve willingly,, almost voluntarily,
around the world on a whirlwind two-week trip, from the
and do not look to flee from the difficulties that
death camps of Poland to biblical sites in Israel.
come from living in a land torn by conflict. Some
Notably, the trip evokes a roller coaster of emotions.
are immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
I was touched by Kohn's perceptiveness toward the
Others are from Ethiopia and Iran. Still others are
cataclysmic conditions that bred the German killing
from the United States. It is their families' stories of
valor and love for the country — whether based on
In a Jewish News article on April 13, 2001, she
religious beliefs, a strong sense of nationalism, or
discussed "the symbolism in a group of Jewish
both — that should be imparted to the reading pub-
teenagers, living in a world so different from that of
the Jews of the Holocaust, paying their respects to
And they should.
those who fell or were burned by the hands of the
Focused And Determined
"Those who will go on the march," she wrote,
read about politicians and negotiations, and place
"will walk the paths they walked, those paths of death —
'aggressor' and 'racist' on the people of a country
except this will be a march of the living."
as if they were a box of identical figurines to be examined,
Most importantly, she added, "I want to see the things my
labeled and put back on the shelf," Kohn goes on to say.
grandmother Rose saw. I want to see both the streets of
"I want to make the reader take the Israeli people, the
Warsaw and the fields and woods that will forever be stained
with the blood of innocents and the ashes of the chosen peo- Jewish people, back off of the shelf and take a closer look at
the individuals and their lives."
ple — chosen to die, but now chosen to live. They live
The aspiring journalist proposes talking to Jewish students
through us. We must see the things they saw, both in the
in different parts of the tiny, embattled nation.
good times and the bad."
"It would be interesting," she says, "to compare the stories
of a student from Elkana, a settlement by tide but as quiet
Fulfilling A Dream
and placid as any Midwestern suburb, and a student from
Today, I sense in Kohn a burning desire not only to study in
Jerusalem, an ancient city that is still making history as the
Israel, but also soak in the mists of time that give the Jewish
body count climbs and the tension continues to cast shad-
homeland its uniqueness and richness in the Arab-dominat-
ows on the lives of Israelis just trying to get through their
ed Middle East. She spent the summer of 2000 in the Jewish
state on a sojourn sponsored by the Orthodox Union's teen
Look for Rachel Kohn's dispatches from Israel in the
arm, the National Conference of Synagogue Youth.
Jewish News. I know they'll be as insightful, heartfelt and
"In the age of CNN and political analysts," Kohn relates
provocative as her letter.
in her August letter, "I believe I can cover the tempestuous
I like her confidence and respect her humility.
situation in Israel from a number of new angles."
As she put it: "Countries go to war, but people are caught
Not only did that sound intriguing, I felt she had the
in the crossfire — people from both sides. I would like to
wherewithal to deliver.
take advantage of the wonderful opportunity that I see
"First of all," she says, "I could write simply as an
before me, and provide America with a side of the Middle
American Jew living in Israel as a student: the fears, discover-
East conflict that CNN does not care to cover. I am asking
ies and realities of a world the nightly news does not cover. I
you to give me the chance."
am fortunate to have visited Israel many times before, but I
And we are, Rachel. 111
know that there will be a considerable difference between
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