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Palestinian and Israeli teachers say students are struggling to cope with the conflict

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

As the conflict in the Middle East continues, we're taking a moment now to hear from two teachers - both worried, both scared. One, Karen Neuberger, is in Tel Aviv.

KAREN NEUBERGER: There is no point in telling students you have nothing to be afraid of. That would be unfair and insincere.

RASCOE: The other teacher is in Jenin, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

EYAD ALSOUQI: I'm so sad about what's happening with these students. They confused about what's happening, why.

RASCOE: Eyad Alsouqi teaches computer science and coding to middle school boys in Jenin. Over the years, he's won many awards for his work.

ALSOUQI: I am interested to spread coding in my country, Palestine, and other countries too.

RASCOE: But the last month, he says, has been hard.

ALSOUQI: Sometimes we opening school, sometimes teaching with strategy, distance learning. Sometimes black day - no learning.

RASCOE: He says his school checks each day to see if it's safe for students to come to school. If the Israeli army is not near, the school is open. If they are close by, students learn remotely. And then there are days when there isn't any electricity, so there's no school at all. Eyad Alsouqi switches to Arabic to explain how the Israeli response in Gaza has affected his students in the West Bank.

ALSOUQI: (Through interpreter) They ask, will this continue? How long will it continue? Is it possible this happens to our schools in Jenin, that they get destroyed? Because they see that most of the people who are being killed are students and young children. Many have nightmares, so we keep them busy with activities like drawing and using their words and projects in the computer labs to let them express themselves.

RASCOE: Alsouqi says all students deserve the best. He and his colleagues are working to help their students through these very difficult times.

ALSOUQI: (Through interpreter) We try to grow hope in them. There are countries and people who believe in justice, and they will help Palestine and our freedom.

RASCOE: Seventy miles away, Karen Neuberger teaches English and diplomacy at Israeli state high school in Tel Aviv. She says she's heard lots of anger in her classes over the October 7 attack. Some students, she says, can't understand why Israel is not using more force to wipe out Hamas.

NEUBERGER: There is, understandably, a wish for a very quick solution. What I am trying to send is a very, very clear message that Israel is a country and a democratic one, which means it has a leadership, and the leadership is supposed to take well-informed decisions. A quick solution may sound very appealing. It is probably not a solution that will work in the long run.

RASCOE: Over the last month, Neuberger says students have been shifting between remote learning and in person. Only so many can fit into bomb shelters at a time, and the school is having to use those shelters.

NEUBERGER: You can be in the middle of class, and all of a sudden, the sirens are sounding, and you have one minute and 10 seconds to make it to the shelter. This has been going on for some time, and it is becoming a routine thing. You drop everything, you stop everything and you start running. And it doesn't happen once a day. It happens a few times a day.

RASCOE: Karen Neuberger says she's worried this conflict will continue to drag out and that her students will bear the emotional scars as a result. She hopes they can be resilient.

NEUBERGER: In short, I just wish for them a normal life, one that is taken for granted by so many millions in the Western world.

RASCOE: That's Karen Neuberger, a teacher in Tel Aviv. We also heard from Eyad Alsouqi, who teaches in the Israeli-occupied of Jenin in the West Bank.

(SOUNDBITE OF HERMANOS GUTIERREZ'S "MESA REDONDA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Lennon Sherburne
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