Posted on 16 September 2014.
BY MEREDITH SHELDON
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Seniors Yuval Shmul and Lauren White meet up in Israel this past July.[/caption]
Sirens blared through the streets of Eilat, Israel as senior Yuval Shmul darted to the nearest bomb shelter. A rocket shard hit her building, shattering the window of a room of girls from her program.
Shmul, a native Israeli, did not have the summer she expected. The bombing in this Middle East warzone affected her and her family.
“You are not scared for yourself,” Shmul said. “You are scared for your friends, your family and for the country. I never felt personally scared. I never felt like I was in danger or would be killed by a rocket, but the whole conflict is nerve-wracking.”
Over 4,500 students on one high school campus equates to a diverse student body. From Venezuela to Russia, students at Cypress Bay are affected by global conflict.
Six weeks in Israel, two with family and four training with the Israel Defense Forces, led Shmul to form a stronger relationship with her hometown.
“The experience we have unites us,” she said. “I feel more connected to the people there and more connected to the land itself. It is not a religious connection, but more to the culture of Judaism and to the culture of being Israeli.”
As the conflict in the Gaza Strip escalated, Shmul and the people at her program shied away from problematic areas such as Tel Aviv.
“It was chaotic,” she said. “My best friend Lauren White was also there at the same time. One night the escalations got really bad and she called me very upset on the phone, which made me upset. You don’t know what to do in the moment or what is going to happen tomorrow.”
Since it was her first time in Israel, senior Lauren White called Shmul for comfort when she sprinted to the bomb shelter.
“The first thing that came to my mind was Yuval,” said White who attended the Alexander Muss High School in Israel program. While all of my friends were crying and calling their parents, I called her and it was reassuring to know I wasn’t alone.”
Instead of hiding from bombs in Israel during the summer, senior Maria Marin was on the opposite end of the world seeing first-hand the struggles and disparity in Venezuela when she visited her family and friends. She said people were desperate for basics like rice and milk.
“It was very sad to see such a beautiful country get to where it has at such a fast pace,” Marin said. “All we can do is help my family who is still there and supply them with goods that can’t be found anymore.”
For years, Marin feared going to Venezuela.
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In Venezuela, senior Maria Marin wears a gas mask to protect herself from gas bombs in the area.[/caption]
Her father was kidnapped for 16 hours at Maiquetia International Airport when she was 6-years-old. The kidnappers also threatened to harm Marin and her brother.
Despite the political unrest and security concerns in Venezuela today, Marin travels every other month to visit family and friends. She said she can travel with comfort since she has learned to live on alert.
“When you’re there you always have to think of every possible thing that can happen and just be as low key as possible,” she said. “We always have someone watching over us and we have bulletproof cars just in case.”
Sophomore Alexa Schummer ventured to Caracas, Venezuela this summer to see her family who is living in fear.
“My family no longer feels safe in such a dangerous city,” she said. “They want to leave the country and I feel angered more than anything that the beauty that Venezuela once had has basically been demolished and by the lack of human rights given to the citizens.”
With her mom from Belarus and her dad from Uzbekistan, senior Samantha Gedihovich has a strong Russian background, causing her to keep close watch on that part of the world. Although she wasn’t born in Russia, Gedihovich stays up-to-date with the disputes in Russia through her television screen.
“I can connect to the issue in Russia on a deeper level because I know that in a different reality, I could easily have been born there and be suffering right now,” Gedihovich said. “I am so thankful I was born in such an amazing country, but I can still empathize with the people that reside there.”
#SOSVenezuela and other trends on Twitter relating to international conflicts have helped to spread awareness of these global happenings, Marin said.
“People can see how Venezuelans are desperate for help,” she said. “Hopefully, the Chavistas, the people who work for the government, realize that it’s not all about money and power, but it’s about their kids’ futures and security. If we stay the way we are now, things will get worse and there will be much more chaos.”
Instead of tweeting, Shmul created a blog called Every Voice, Every Conflict to spread awareness.
“My friends and I started a blog for people dealing with conflicts in Israel and Syria if they want to share their perspectives as teenagers,” she said. “It is not what you hear on the news or from adults.”
Although social media outlets can help spread global awareness, Shmul said she avoids it because it is controversial.
“I shy away from using social media for political purposes,” she said. “I see people post articles about Israel. I enjoy reading the articles, and it is interesting to see other perspectives, some of which I obviously do not agree with.”
Seeing news updates and posts on her Twitter feed about the changing conflict in Israel, Shmul worries about her family.
“My aunt in Israel has four kids, the youngest being a year old,” she said. “It is scary because she usually doesn’t have them for the majority of the day, so she doesn’t know what will happen if a siren goes off. My grandma lives there too and is over it. She knows how to deal with it. It is scary but they know they are protected and nothing will happen to them.”
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