Marla Ann Bennett (April 5, 1978- July 31, 2002)
Marla Bennett '00 Killed in Bombing at Hebrew University
Marla Bennett, 24, grew up in San Diego and was completing the second year of a three-year master's program in Judaic Studies at Hebrew University. She had been at the university to take a final exam in her sole Hebrew University class of the semester, Hebrew language. She was to have returned home on Friday for the wedding of close friends.
She received a BA in political science from the University of Berkeley at California in 2000. She was very active in Berkeley Hillel, particularly in the Conservative minyan and Hillel's women's group. She was the first recipient of the Berkeley Hillel award, Hineni . The award goes to a student who, "whenever there was something that needed to be done, their response was 'here I am,'" which perfectly exemplified Marla. She was also a leader at the Berkeley Bayit where she lived for two years.
In 1998 she attended the Rothberg School's One Year Program for her junior year abroad and decided to return after graduation in 2000. She was very much aware of the situation she was living in. "This question may seem inconsequential, but the events of the past few months in Israel have led me to believe that each small decision I make, by which route to walk to school, whether or not to go out to dinner, may have life-threatening consequences," Bennett wrote in a May 10 column in a newspaper in her hometown of San Diego. (see below)
"Marla was incredibly bright, top of her class. She was extremely outgoing, a bubbly young lady, very seriously involved in investigating her Judaism. She was interested in human beings, and finding a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict," family spokesmen Norman Greene said.
"My friends and family in San Diego ask me to come home, it is dangerous here," she wrote. "I appreciate their concern. But there is nowhere else in the world I would rather be right now. I have a front-row seat for the history of the Jewish people. I am a part of the struggle for Israel's survival. Paying for my groceries is the same as contributing money to my favorite cause."
(Sources include The Israel Line, Daily Californian, San Francisco Chronicle, SF Jewish Bulletin)
'This Struggle Is Worthwhile'
BY MARLA BENNETT
Each morning when I leave my apartment building, I have an important question to contemplate: Should I turn left or should I turn right? This question may seem inconsequential, but the events of the past few months in Israel have led me to believe that each small decision I make--by which route to walk to school, whether to go out to dinner--may have life-threatening consequences.
I have been living in Israel for a year and a half; I arrived just a month before the current wave of violence and horror began. And for about that same period of time, I have been receiving calls each week from various friends and family members who subtly, or less than subtly, suggest I think about coming home. My friends and family talk about how dangerous it is here, and I have to agree with them. It is dangerous. But I remain unconvinced that the rest of the world is such a safe place. At least if I am here I can take an active role in attempting to put back together all that has broken. I can volunteer in the homes of Israelis affected by terrorism, I can put food in collection baskets for Palestinian families, I can see what goes on each day with my own eyes instead of with the eyes of CNN. Beyond all of the brutality, in most places in Israel life goes on.
Three weeks ago, I went to Prague for the weekend. One of the perks of living in Israel is easy (and cheap!) travel to Europe, and as the stress of living in Israel continued, my friend Amanda and I decided to take a break for a few days. Indeed, it was a break: We felt free to walk in large, crowded areas without looking over our shoulders. We went to cafes and drank coffee without constantly eyeing the door for anyone in bulky clothing, we used public transportation without second-guessing our choice. But as we sat in shul on Friday night, an announcement was made that a rally for the Palestinians was being held in a square nearby and we should be careful to take a different route home. With the rising anti-Semitic violence in Europe, no one was sure that the night would end peacefully. Could we feel carefree anywhere?
During Pesach this year, while terror attacks within Israel were a nearly daily occurrence, an acquaintance [noted] that though she does not always feel safe going to public places in Jerusalem, she still feels safe to walk alone on the streets at 1 in the morning. I question which way I will walk to school in the morning, but I too feel secure walking the streets of Jerusalem alone at night--even the small side streets I frequent now to avoid the popular thoroughfares. I never felt safe enough to do that while I lived in the United States.
My friends and family in San Diego are right when they call and ask me to come home. It is dangerous here. I appreciate their concern. But there is nowhere else in the world I would rather be right now. I have a front-row seat for the history of the Jewish people. I am a part of the struggle for Israel's survival. Paying for my groceries is the same as contributing money to my favorite cause. Since traveling to Prague and feeling the fear of the Prague community as they faced possible violence, I know that this struggle is worthwhile.
Jerusalem: There’s Nowhere Else I’d Rather Be
I’ve been living in Israel for over a year and a half now, and my favorite thing to do here is go to the grocery store. I know, not the most exciting response from someone living in Jerusalem these days. But going grocery shopping here—deciphering the Hebrew labels and delighting in all of the kosher products—as well as picking up my dry cleaning, standing in long lines at the bank, and waiting in the hungry mob at the bakery—means that I live here. I am not a tourist; I deal with Israel and all of its complexities, confusion, joy and pain every single day. And I love it.
BY MARLA BENNETT
I got the “Israel bug” during my junior year, when I studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I had traveled in Israel before, but living here was a qualitatively different experience. I left knowing I would return. I was not sure whether I would study or work, but I knew that my love for Israel, my desire to understand this country, and my desire to learn more about Judaism were not yet satiated.
I came back to Israel a year and a half ago . . . and what a year and a half it has been. In September 2000, I began studying at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, where I have been learning traditional Jewish texts from master teachers, with other students who represent a broad range of Jewish backgrounds and perspectives. I have learned more in my year and a half of study at Pardes than I learned during my entire undergraduate career.
But my learning is a result not only of the hours I spend pouring over material in the Beit Midrash (Jewish house of study), but also of my life in Jerusalem... Here in Jerusalem I’ve found a community of seekers: people who like me who want to try living in another country, who want to know more about Judaism; people who are trying to figure out exactly what they want their lives to look like. The air is charged with our debates and discussions as we try to assimilate into our lives all that we’ve learned. Life here is magical.
I have learned more in my year and a half of study at Pardes than I learned during my entire undergraduate career.
It’s also been difficult. Just a month after I arrived the current “Intifada” began. My time here has been dramatically affected by both the security situation and by the events happening around me. I am extremely cautious about where I go and when; I avoid crowded areas and alter my routine when I feel at all threatened. But I also feel energized by the opportunity to support Israel during a difficult period. This is undoubtedly an important historic moment for both Israel and for the Jewish people—I have the privilege of reporting to my friends and family in the U.S. about the realities of living in Israel at this time and I also have the honor of being an American choosing to remain in Israel, and assist, however minimally, in Israel’s triumph.
I remain in Israel this year as part of the Pardes Educators Program, a joint program between Pardes and the Hebrew University. At the Hebrew University I am completing a Master’s Degree in Jewish Education while I continue to study classical Jewish texts at Pardes. I receive a stipend each month from The AVI CHAI Foundation, which is funding the program, and after I complete the degree in June 2003, I have made a commitment to teach in a Jewish school in North America for three years.
As I look ahead to the next year and a half that I will spend in Israel, I feel excited, worried, but more than anything else, lucky. I am excited that I can spend another year and a half in a place that truly feels like home, a home in which I am surrounded by an amazing community of bright and interesting friends who constantly help me to question and define myself. I am worried for Israel—a historic moment this is, but also difficult and unpredictable. I feel lucky because the excitement always wins out over the worry. The exhilaration of Torah and Talmud study, close friendships and a lively community far outweigh the fears. Stimulation abounds in Jerusalem—and I need only go to the supermarket to be struck once again by how lucky I am to live here. There is no other place in the world where I would rather be right now.
San Diego Jewish Journal
San Francisco Jewish Journal
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Israel)