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Teachers divided by war

At the Gazette, our hearts go out to our colleagues and friends caught in the crossfire of any and all crises.

In the aftermath of the October 7 massacre by Hamas, and the ensuing ground war launched by Israel, we have reached out across enemy lines to learn more about the fates of our fellow teachers, their students and their families in this difficult time.

Israel

To discuss our colleagues in Israel, the Gazette reached out to Ellyn Martziano and Dr Tziona Levi of the Israeli Ministry of Education.

According to Ellyn and Dr Tziona, more than 17,000 English teachers are currently on the frontline. They, alongside their students, are navigating difficult circumstances, while working hard to continue to fulfil their roles as educators. Ellyn and Dr Tziona say their English teachers work in a unique ‘pluralistic’ setting, teaching a diverse student body regardless of their own background, be it Arab, Druze, Bedouin or Jewish.

‘Israelis are enduring a surreal “normal” amidst daily missile attacks, sirens, and the haunting cries of the hostages’ families,’ Ellyn and Dr Tziona told the Gazette.

After the attack in October, Israel declared war against Hamas. Escalating tensions on the northern border with Lebanon has forced thousands to abandon their jobs, schools and lives. Despite the hardship of this displacement, Ellyn and Dr Tziona say their teachers demonstrate ‘unwavering commitment’ to their students and to their professions.

In their statement for the Gazette, Ellyn and Dr Tziona have said:

‘In the face of arduous demands, these educators serve as soldiers on the home front, demonstrating unwavering commitment to their students and profession. With talents, skills, and compassionate hearts, they bear their own burdens while providing a sense of security and care to their students.

As English teachers in Israel continue to work, teach, pray, and cope, they epitomize the indomitable spirit that refuses to be broken. In a country grappling with adversity, these educators stand as beacons of hope, helping students find solace and security while navigating their own paths through the storm.’

Palestine

To discuss our colleagues in Palestine, the Gazette reached out to Nick Bilbrough of Hands Up, an organisation that provides opportunities to young people in Gaza.

According to Nick, Hands Up hold ongoing Zooms to connect with teachers when they are able to access the internet. For some, like Hands Up co-ordinator Rajaa, and teachers like Hanaa, contacting the outside world is a struggle due to a lack of electricity and reliable Wi-Fi. Teachers are also known to be scavenging for food and water while caring for families, including new-born children.

‘Mainstream media is not showing the human side,’ Nick told the Gazette.

Hands Up have been working in Palestine on projects such as intercultural remote theatre, and their poetry book ‘Moon Tell Me Truth’, a compilation of poetry submitted by children in Gaza. Nick has told us that he is aware of two children killed in the current conflict who had previously submitted poems for ‘Moon’, including nine-year-old Fatimah.

In his statement for the Gazette, Nick has said:

‘The relentless and barbaric bombing of Gaza is a direct attack on civilians and on education in Gaza – 266 schools have been bombed and many universities, including the Hands Up Project’s partner organisation for our research, The Islamic University.

‘We know for sure that at least two children involved in our work have already been killed. Hundreds of children and teachers who we have worked very closely with since the early days of the Hands Up Project are currently unaccounted for. We call on the ELT community to stand up for the teachers and pupils of Palestine by calling for a permanent ceasefire.’

In the process of writing this article, EL Gazette also reached out to the British Council for comment on their teachers in Palestine. The British Council said:

‘We remain in close and regular contact with all colleagues in OPT and Israel. All are accounted for and unharmed and we are doing everything we can to support them at this truly awful time.’

EL Gazette also reached out to the English Teachers Association of Israel (ETAI) who put us in touch with the Israeli Ministry of Education. ETAI did not provide a comment.

At the time of publication, the Gazette have received no reports of deaths of English teachers working in Israel or Gaza.

Image courtesy of Library
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