Jessica Brecker, 23, of Hasting-on-Husdon, New York and Alex Green, 22, of Royal Oak Michigan are currently teaching English in Isreal through a program called Israel Teaching Fellows.
In light of the most recent conflict taking place between Israel and Gaza, Brecker and Green were evacuated Wednesday the 14th of November from Be’er Sheva to a location in northern Israel.
After the assassination of Ahmed Jabari, tensions have risen between the Israeli’s and the Palestinians.
The Michigan Journal contacted Green and Brecker to gain some insight on the current situation from an insider point of view.
Check out the interview with Alex and two other Midwestern Americans currently in Israel by Fox 2 News.
Alex Green, 22, Royal Oak, Michigan and Jessica Brecker, 23, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York
MJ: Why are you in Israel? What were you doing there before the attacks started?
A: I am in Israel working as an English Teaching Aide in Be’er Sheva through a program called Israel Teaching Fellows. This program is through the Israeli government, and is overseen by the Ministry of Education and funded by Masa, and outreach program through the Jewish Agency. There are 24 other volunteers with me as part of my specific group, and the broader program has employed somewhere around 160 volunteers from North America in total this year.
Before the attacks started, I was teaching English to Israeli elementary students at Neve Shalom School in Be’er Sheva. In addition, I was volunteering with a Bedouin school in the area along similar lines.
J: I am a part of Israel Teaching Fellows, a program funded by Masa and the Israeli Ministry of Education in which native English speakers teach English to children in low-income communities. Before the attacks started, I was teaching 5 days a week, studying Hebrew through an Ulpan program, and attending weekly Jewish learning seminars.
MJ: How did you find out about the attacks? Did your team have any warning? / What
happened once the attacks started?
A: The answer to your question depends on which attacks you are referring to. Perhaps I should start from the beginning…
Since the start of our work in late August, we have experienced three separate rocket attacks on Be’er Sheva, not including the most recent activity. This is important to note because by the recent outbreak we were already well prepared. After the visit of the Qatari Emir to Gaza on October 23rd, we were warned that the barrages would likely increase in frequency and magnitude, as they did. We received no warning, however, about the initiation of Operation Pillar of Cloud on November 14th, which essentially pushed the already tense conflict into outright war.
On that day we were sitting in our Hebrew language class when the teacher got a text saying that Israel had assassinated Ahmed Jabari (the chief of Hamas’ military wing). Minutes later we were instructed by our program managers to return to our apartments quickly and calmly. After we returned, we were told that we would be evacuated to the north, and that we should prepare a bag of essentials for a three-day stay. While we were packing the first three salvos of rockets made landfall. In the lull after those attacks we loaded on the bus. We have yet to return.
J: During the first round of attacks there was some warning. We heard that there had been rounds of rockets shot into the south and we were prepared for them to hit Be’er Sheva. Even though I felt ready for a rocket to come to Be’er Sheva at any moment, I was still terrified when the siren sounded as I was on the bus heading home from school. The second time around we had no warning at all. Our Ulpan teacher received a phone call from her husband informing her of the assassination. Soon thereafter, our director called us and told us to head back to our apartments as quickly as we could. From there, we were told to pack our things and that we would be leaving for a few days. While we were attempting to pack, sirens were continuously sounding, and it was madness as we traded off between trying to decide what essentials to bring and running for the bomb shelter. As we were driving away, we could see the iron dome in action through the window of our bus as two missiles annihilated each other in mid air.
MJ: Where are you located now? What are you doing there?
A: For security concerns, I won’t say what city we are in, but we are in the north of the country. We are currently operating in a number of capacities. First, we are working to create a virtual library of English lessons and resources for our students, and all those affected by the conflict. Second, we are undertaking many projects, such as constructing an online information center, in order to provide the outside world with a well-rounded assessment of what is actually happening here. Three of us, including myself, were interviewed by Fox 2 News Metro Detroit on November 19th in meeting that aim. Third, due to the limitations set by our organization in regards to returning to the conflict zone, we are working with local volunteer groups to assist residents from the south that have fled north amongst other population groups as well.
J: Right now I am located in Netanya, a city north of Tel Aviv. I am involved in a group of participants who are focusing on creating educational Youtube videos to send to the children in the south who have been out of school since last Thursday.
MJ: What is your plan for the next few weeks, in light of recent events?
A: Depending on how long the conflict continues for, and whether or now we will be allowed access back into the conflict zone, we are planning to continue and expand our current efforts. We are extremely eager to return to our students in Be’er Sheva though, and the sooner the better.
J: Truthfully, it is an impossible question to answer. We are taking it moment by moment here, as at any time the situation can change. I would like to return to Be’er Sheva as soon as I can. Until then, I will focus on informing those abroad of the situation here in an accurate way, creating ways to reach out to the people who don’t have the means to leave the south, and helping the children and families who have been evacuated to the north.
Continued on the next page, the Michigan Journal asks Jessica Brecker and Alex Green:
- What can Americans do in the states to help?
- How do you feel the conflict is affecting citizens of each side?
- Do you feel as though there will be a cease – fire soon?
- As a person who is residing in Israel right now, do you feel like Israeli media coverage accurately portrays the effects of this conflict on the Palestinians?
- Do you look forward to coming home?
- Do you have any interaction with Palestinians? If so, what is their opinion on the matter?
- Before this conflict, did you have any interactions with Arab-Israeli’s? If so, what is life like for them in Israel?
- How has your opinion changed concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the American foreign policy changed since living there?