Written by Omer Sonic, IJRM Newsletter Managing editor
A harrowing morn
At the break of a Saturday dawn, on the 7th of October 2023, instead of a new day filled with bright possibilities, Israel was awoken to the worst one yet. Terrorists from the Gaza Strip who belonged to the extremist Hamas organization broke through the border wall. They attacked settlements and a music festival that was being held close to the border, murdering, butchering, and kidnapping hundreds of people. It didn’t take long for the people of Israel to learn about these horrific acts, not through news reports, but from air-raid sirens near homes. “Where I live, missile alerts are rare; the moment we heard them, me and my family rushed to the safe room,” says Liat Levontin of Haifa’s Technion Institute. “My daughter’s boyfriend immediately received an emergency recruitment order (Tsav 8) and left. She didn’t know where her friends were; later she found that most of them were under fire with little means of help, two were killed and three taken hostage.” Sharon Horsky of the Hebrew University relates a similar experience, watching in horror with her daughter as footage of the attack started to appear on the news.
Such an attack on Israel’s people has not occurred since the first years of the country’s founding decades ago, and it has impacted every person living here, directly or indirectly. Everyday life has crashed and ground to a near-halt, and those who look for ways to continue realize that the new reality is far from normal. Academia and intellectual pursuits have always been a casualty in war, no matter the era. In World War II, students and youngsters of all nations either joined or were conscripted by their nations’ armies, leaving behind barren classrooms and anxious families – some would never return. In every university, there is at least one desk that will forever remain empty, one chair at a family table that won’t be filled again. Every loss of a life is a loss from the life – the web of relationships and friendships which hold this country together, be it familial, academic or otherwise.
As the missiles continued falling, I realized this was no normal attack. I turned on the news to see just what was going on...my eyes couldn't leave the screen. It was unreal. -Hila Riemer, Ben Gurion University
Routine academic life has taken a significant turn. “It’s a trade-off,” says Barak Libai of Reichman University. “We want to start the semester soon, but so many students have been called up that it would be unfair to do so – and this is a university, it’s difficult to keep it closed. This is a dilemma that will haunt us for the upcoming weeks.” The campuses are no longer filled with students and faculty, and those who do come for essential work in laboratories, as Hila Riemer of Ben-Gurion University attests, can feel an air of morbidity. Can anyone think about research? “Despite these troubles”, says Renana Peres, IJRM co-editor, “we try to hold our heads above the water and keep moving. We use the support from our colleagues abroad to continue with research, one bit at a time, we try to keep our commitment to reviewing and editing papers, and most importantly – persevere. For many of us, it is our way to maintain our sanity.”
Hands outstretched, from all over the world
Even in these dark times, people find the strength to move forward and lift up those who cannot. Universities like Ben-Gurion and Tel-Aviv have opened civilian headquarters in their campuses, with many prominent professors like Danit Ein-Gar heading objectives like delivering aid packages to troops or using high-tech solutions to help look for missing/kidnapped family members. The Hebrew University business schools launched the “HUBS Aid” project, where small and medium business owners in the south of Israel get advice and marketing assistance from students and faculty. Faculty members from all schools have come together to support and aid the bereaved and the troops, which lest we forget, are made of siblings, friends and family.
The world of academia – and marketing to be specific – is a close-knit one that crosses borders and oceans, and the ripples of discord and grief have traveled through that web into other countries. David Godes of Maryland Smith’s Business School realized this was more than just a missile launching as his daughter started calling friends from Israel and filling him in. Even an ocean away, academics realize as much as they do here that this is a new reality for Israel, a reality that is only seen in movies and dark points in history that we never wish to revisit.
“I hoped that the era of terrorism was over and some progress could be made, but the party massacre completely rattled me.” - Michaela Draganska of Drexel University.
The solidarity and friendship shine through. Fellow marketing researchers call to check on and offer emotional support during these troubled times. Colleagues from all over the world, offer to conduct Zoom mini-courses for students who cannot otherwise attend the campus, so their Israeli friends can make time for the necessities of the hour. In the background, tensions are brewing on campuses outside Israel, and Jewish faculty are scanning the horizon with concern. Dina Mayzlin says that her campus at the University of Southern California has experienced vigils and protests on both sides, and anxiety has settled over the college grounds.
A crippling blow has been dealt to Israel and to academics who live there or who have family and friends in the country. It is up to us to recover from it. Everyone we have spoken to has agreed on the same thing: as a marketing community, an academic community and most importantly – a human community, we must support each other and hope that some measure of goodness and dignity can persevere through this ordeal.