Following a wave of air strikes in the Gaza Strip last week, Israeli universities where Brown undergraduates are currently abroad will maintain normal operations for now, according to Kendall Brostuen, director of the Office of International Programs. The students’ host universities are in close communication with Israeli security authorities, who are taking the necessary precautions under the advice of the Israel Defense Forces, Brostuen wrote in an email to The Herald.
“The universities assure us that all students are safe and accounted for,” Brostuen wrote.
In response to an ongoing campaign of rocket missiles launched by Palestinian military wing Hamas across southern Israel, the Israel Defense Forces have undertaken a large-scale military operation and renewed air strikes on Gaza Thursday night, according to Haaretz.com. The first of the IDF strikes Wednesday resulted in the assassination of Ahmed Jabari, the head of Hamas. In the four days following the assassination, Israel’s anti-missile defense system intercepted 240 of the rockets launched into Gaza by Hamas, according to the Washington Post.
At Tel Aviv University, students had to use the bomb shelter near the dorms after three rockets were fired at the city, wrote Elana Wenger ‘14.5, who is currently studying abroad at the university, in an email to The Herald. While students are not currently being evacuated and the program is continuing as usual, she wrote that she is considering withdrawing from the program early.
“I believe that in a matter of weeks, it may be too dangerous … for foreigners in Israel to leave the country,” she wrote. She added that she is currently working with her family to come up with the “safest, most comprehensive decision possible.”
Chelsea Feuchs ’14 is currently enrolled at the University of Haifa, north of where the conflict has so far occurred. As of Saturday morning, everything was continuing as normal for international students, she wrote in an email to The Herald, “although that is obviously all subject to change at any point if we experience an attack or major security threat.”
She added that she hopes to remain abroad for the duration of the semester, but said, “I also prioritize my safety, and I know Brown does, too.” While the international school has not yet encountered any changes due to the rocket strikes, Feuchs wrote that her Israeli friends have been called into the reserves. Israel’s military is made up of everyday civilians as opposed to professional soldiers.
“Israel’s made it a very high priority to avoid civilian casualties,” said David Gordon ’13, spokesperson for Brown Students for Israel. The group’s president, Zach Ingber ’15, said members do not see Israel’s military operation “as an outward assertion of authority but as a protection of civilians and the fundamental right of self-defense.”
“The situation that Israel and the Palestinians are in now has to do with the inability of both parties to produce leadership since the assassination of Rabin,” Israel’s fifth prime minister, in 1995, said Omer Bartov, a professor of German studies and history who is currently on leave. “Neither side, for respective reasons, has been able to produce political leadership that is willing to look at a political compromise,” he said. “And in fact, I don’t think they’re capable of it.” He added that he believes the United States is the only entity capable of enforcing agreement on both sides.
During a protest led by Brown Students for Justice in Palestine Saturday, students held a large banner stating “Stand with Gaza,” as well as smaller signs to commemorate the 37 people who had so far been killed in Palestine by the air strikes.
Bartov said he agrees that there should be political protests, but the protests “should actually be directed at the American administration.” He added that one of the most useful things students can do is educate themselves as opposed to just expressing strong opinions.
“We want to see more people talking and less people shouting,” Gordon said.