Photo by Mark Philbrick
Tuesday, July 22
A rocket landed in a city next to Ben Gurion Airport southeast of Tel Aviv earlier today. As a consequence, Delta Airlines, American Airlines and US Airways diverted flights already en route to the airport to European cities and have announced a suspension of flights into Israel; none of the airlines have indicated a duration for their suspensions. The airport remains open and there are arrivals and departures by some other commercial carriers, although many European carriers have also temporarily suspended flights to Tel Aviv as well.
The US State Department also issued a more strongly worded travel warning for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza today. However, the Jerusalem Center’s own travel restrictions put in place two weeks ago at the outbreak of hostilities are stricter than those now recommended by the State Department, so we’ve not made further adjustments in permitted travel within the Holy Land.
The students left for a regularly scheduled stay in the Galilee early Monday morning, Jerusalem time and will remain in the Galilee until the end of July. The Galilee is quiet and without the turmoil that the conflict has created in Tel Aviv and areas to the south of Tel Aviv. The students stay in a tourist kibbutz on the east side of the Sea of Galilee that is away from populated areas and very secure. Planned field trips in the Galilee comply with the US State Department’s recommendations issued today, i.e., none of our planned field trips go to areas that the State Department has suggested that US citizens avoid.
At this point there does not appear to be a foreseeable or predictable end to the hostilities. While Hamas continues to send rockets into the Tel Aviv area, the number has been reduced and none have been sent toward Jerusalem since the Israeli military moved into Gaza. Indeed, because of the Israeli military’s movement into Gaza, the locus of the fighting and violence is primarily centered in Gaza and Israeli areas immediately adjoining Gaza. There is no possibility that the kind of violence seen on TV in Gaza and nearby can spread to other locations within Israel and, hence, Center personnel, including students, are safe and able to participate fully in scheduled curricular and co-curricular activities.
Thursday, July 17
Earlier today (late evening in Jerusalem), Israeli military forces moved into Gaza. Even though this is seen as a major escalation of the conflict, circumstances in Jerusalem described in earlier posts have not changed. Tomorrow is a class day, followed by humanitarian project work through the early afternoon. We've had a long standing requirement that students stay in the building on Fridays until 3 pm (after the crowds at mosques attending the Friday prayers disperse). A determination about out-of-Center travel for Friday evening and Saturday will be made sometime early Friday morning Jerusalem time. Students leave Jerusalem for a 10-day stay in the Galilee early Monday morning.
Tuesday, July 15
Diplomatic efforts to create a cease fire failed today and rockets continue to be sent from Gaza into Israel, and Israel continues to respond militarily. The failure of the cease fire negotiations raises the possibility of a ground invasion of Gaza by Israeli military forces, so tensions remain very high. Since the beginning of the most recent violence, several hundred Palestinians have been killed within Gaza. Earlier today Israel had its first casualty which has made US national news. He was killed by a mortar shell near the Gaza border and not by a rocket. There is absolutely no risk of mortar fire into Jerusalem, but rockets remain a concern. However, none of the rockets launched from Gaza today appear to have been directed toward Jerusalem and students have been participating in regularly scheduled curricular and co-curricular activities. Center security personnel have determined that being away from the Center premises during the day is acceptable and students are permitted to travel to the Old City and elsewhere in Jerusalem after their classes are ended. They have been asked to let the JC security know where they are going when they leave. Students have also been asked to remain vigilant when leaving the Center and to be particularly aware of their surroundings, avoiding large crowds and isolated areas. Each student is required to carry a Center-issued cell-phone to facilitate quick communications with Center security personnel when needed. East Jerusalem and the Old City are off limits to students after 4 pm, and all students must return to the Center by 8 pm. Public transportation, including light rail, is off limits. The Jerusalem Center itself is safe and secure. The Center is located in East Jerusalem, which is the Palestinian part of the city, and within a half mile or so of the Dome of the Rock shrine and Al Aksa mosque and, as such, the Center is located in a part of the city that is unlikely to be targeted by Hamas rockets.