This Is Me: More than a trip

Senior Jaime Mor spent nine months in Israel before coming to Quinnipiac

By on September 26, 2012
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It had only been a week since Jaime Mor landed in Jerusalem, Israel when he experienced something many only see on the news. The small neighborhood of Mamilla was under a terrorist attack. In a square only a few miles from his apartment complex, a terrorist drove his car into a group of soldiers and killed them. This was just the beginning of Mor’s many eye-opening experiences to come.

Photo Courtesy of Jaime Mor

Graduating from high school in 2008, Jaime Mor, now a senior, didn’t want to go straight to college. The New Rochelle, N.Y. native opted for a different path: a year of deferment at Quinnipiac to travel to Israel through the Nativ College Leadership Program. This allows those of the Jewish faith to study in Jerusalem, as well as do community service in some of the country’s most dangerous areas. Mor saw it as an opportunity to connect with his heritage and see where his family came from.

Although anxious about the trip, which lasted from September until late May, Mor quickly immersed himself in a place he’d never been. Along with 116 other students, Mor spent his first five months in Jerusalem enrolled in intensive Hebrew and leadership classes. He described the city as extremely Americanized, and lived a short walk away from some of the city’s most holy locations.

In January 2009, shortly after the terrorist attack on Mamilla, Mor planned to move to Be’er Sheva, a major city in southern Israel close to the Gaza Strip. However, the conflict between Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic political party that governs the Gaza Strip, and Israel delayed his trip.

In December 2008, the informal truce between Hamas and Israel expired after six months in effect. During those months, Hamas agreed to stop launching rocket attacks on Israel, and Israel allowed some commercial shipping across its border with Gaza. However, the agreement was frequently violated by various sub-groups, and following the truce’s expiration, Hamas launched roughly 50 rockets and mortars into Israel. Then Israel executed Operation “Cast Lead,” a bombing campaign on the Gaza Strip that lasted three weeks and killed roughly 1,400 people.

“A katyusha rocket landed only about a mile away from the building we were moving into,” Mor said. “We were a little uneasy and the program almost did not let us move down to the south.”

Mor said the rockets being shot out of Gaza were reaching over 40 kilometers, which was a very dangerous range considering Be’er Sheva’s proximity to Gaza.

“At that point we had such pride in living in Israel and being the American-Jews that we were, we did not want to change our plans,” Mor said. “The attacks stopped a few days later which then settled our moving issue.”

Mor had already decided to be completely invested in the culture and lifestyle, he said, and saw the attacks as a way to experience how other people live. In Israel, people are accustomed to high security threats. He also said these attacks helped him understand the importance of having bag checks before entering most buildings, and metal detectors before entering malls, the central bus station, and the university.

“I didn’t feel anything different, because you can’t,” Mor said. “You have to keep living your life the same way you would every day. That is what the terrorists want, they want the Israelis to change the way they live their lives.”

After moving to Be’er Sheva, or the Capital of the Desert, Mor stayed in an absorption center, which is state run housing for immigrants. He lived with three other Americans and Russians. Here he decided to get his hands dirty, and began working with the local people.

He split up the weekdays with volunteer work, spending two at a local hospital, one at a zoo, and one teaching children English at a local school.

Since Mor wanted to double major in physical therapy and athletic training, he said the hospital was where he belonged. Aside from spending two or three days in a rehabilitation center, his main job was to transport patients from one part of the hospital to another. Although he saw many rare illnesses, Mor remembers one case in particular.

“There was this one guy who we had to transport and I don’t even know what is illness was,” Mor said. “But we had to put some special suits on to move him, because we couldn’t expose our skin to his condition because it was airborne.”

While working in the hospital fulfilled his passion of being in the medical field, Mor said he valued school just as much. Teaching children as young as five how to integrate American words into their everyday lives was an amazing experience, he said.

After his yearlong excursion came to an end, Mor began his journey in Hamden. He was one of the few students to be accepted into a double-major program in the School of Health Sciences. With such a demanding schedule, Mor knew he needed to keep his positive outlook on life.

He also maintained the fearless mentality he grew accustomed to in Israel, grabbing every opportunity thrown his way, including working as a resident assistant for two years and becoming a founding father of Quinnipiac’s fraternity Delta Tau Delta.

“Being a founding father was an amazing experience,” Mor said. “Going through the chartering experience and everything, especially being the first group of people to see our ritual was awesome.”

Mor also set his sights on working with the Interfraternity Council. He served as vice president of programming during his junior year, organizing events like Greek Week, and currently holds the position of IFC president.

Mor also took on the role of orientation leader this past summer, and left his position as an R.A. This was something he’d always wanted to accomplish.

“Jaime has been such an inspiration to me,” Cara Gilmartin, a junior and fellow orientation leader, said. “During Orientation this summer, I learned so much about him and his love for involvement and Quinnipiac in general. He’s an incredibly hard worker and someone I look up to everyday. He’s inspired me to challenge myself and simply be a better person.”

Mor credits his ability to be such an active member of the Quinnipiac community to his time management skills, and said his couldn’t have asked for a better experience at Quinnipiac.

While Mor still has three and a half years of college left, he thinks so far he’s stayed true to his hopes and goals.

“I’ve looked back already now, going into senior year, and I’ve told all my freshmen, ‘the one thing you don’t want to do in May when you graduate, is stand on the quad and look back and say ‘I wish I would have done something’ and that for me is what I’ve tried to do,” Mor said.

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