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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Youth see Israel conflict up close

    Chaz Totschek, a Psychology Senior, poses yesterday afternoon with various memorabilia he picked up on his recent trip to Israel.
    Chaz Totschek, a Psychology Senior, poses yesterday afternoon with various memorabilia he picked up on his recent trip to Israel.

    The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not new knowledge. But the 35 UA students who returned Jan. 13 from the Taglit-Birthright Israel trip have something new to say about what they saw with their own eyes – something they say most Americans aren’t seeing.

    “”Once I got there, I was watching the news and hearing firsthand what was actually going on from the soldiers and our tour guide,”” Judaic studies sophomore Kelsey Rendelman said.

    She believes Israel is being portrayed in a negative light by the U.S. media.

    “”They really were making Israel out to be the bad guy,”” Rendelman said. “”They didn’t say much on the news here that Hamas has been sending rockets into southern Israel; they sort of just said there have been rockets in southern Israel.””

    Birthright is a free trip offered to Jewish individuals, ages 18 to 26, to visit Israel for the first time and discover their roots. Hillel helps promote the trip and gets students involved.

    The group arrived in war-torn Israel on Jan. 1, in the midst of air strikes following the failed Israeli-Gaza cease-fire on Dec. 19.

    “”One of the biggest differences I saw, was that whenever the news was on in Israel, this red light would flash on the screen warning that a rocket was launched and people had to go run for cover,”” psychology senior Chaz Totschek said.

    He said that the group did not go anywhere southwest of the country and they had to stay off certain highways and roads to avoid possible chances of car bombings.

    “”The media over there is much more graphic, and really in your face,”” Totschek said. “”You see what’s happening live; they show images of people in the hospitals and the soldiers with open wounds and they show the civilians.””

    Totschek said initially the notion of a war taking place seemed surreal since he was touring around and having a great time. It was the evening news that brought him back to the reality of the war.

    Judaic studies senior Adam Bellos was in Israel around the same time as the Birthright students, but was working on a humanitarian project, the Jewish National Fund.

    Bellos raised more than $1,000 in order to build a huge facility, stationed in Sderot, a city in Israel, which included a safe playground for kids to take their mind off the war and chaos.

    He and his group were staying about 25 miles outsides of Gaza. They originally planned to go to Sderot, or Be’er Sheva, but were unable to do so because of bombings that took place in Be’er Sheva and dangerous conditions in Sderot.

    Instead of building playgrounds, Bellos watched the news about the air strike from a distance, and the group turned their focus to other humanitarian work outside those cities.

    “”The Israelis are these people who are portrayed as going in there and committing all these acts of war, when in reality, it’s a complete matter of self defense,”” Bellos said, “”The only thing that the Israeli people want is peace.””

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