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Will Ezra Schwartz Murder Cause Schools To Rethink Security in Israel?

As violence rises in Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, parents of American Jewish students studying there say that they are relying on the security protocols of the programs to which they have entrusted their children. It is not yet clear, however, whether such protocols were followed by Yeshivat Ashreinu, the school the American teenager Ezra Schwartz was attending when he was killed November 18 while participating in a study abroad program. When Pamela Strell s eldest son left for Israel with the rest of the junior class at his North Carolina Jewish boarding school, Strell wasn t worried. I didn t have any out of the ordinary concerns, she said. We visited Israel before. We ve always felt pretty comfortable there.

The violence that s left 20 Israelis killed, along with Schwartz, and more than 100 Palestinians shot dead many of them while in the process of attacking Israelis began just days after the group from the pluralistic American Hebrew Academy left for a 10- week stay in Israel. Even as attacks mounted, Strell said that she never considered having her son, who was attending Hod HaSharon s Alexander Muss High School in Israel, come home early. We really trusted the school, she said. The group returned to the United States on November 17, one day before the 18-year-old Schwartz was killed on an excursion with Yeshivat Ashreinu. Schwartz, who was shot while traveling in the West Bank, attended Yeshivat Ashreinu in the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh under a program administered by MASA Israel Journey, one of several large Israel study or travel programs for young people. According to a report in the New York Jewish Week, Yeshivat Ashreinu[1] had hired a taxi to send Schwartz and other students on a service project. They were not accompanied by a guard. Groups that host young American Jews in Israel, such as MASA, Taglit-Birthright Israel and Muss High School, follow protocols intended to mitigate security threats to their participants. A MASA representative said it was still too early to draw conclusions as to whether the Yeshivat Ashreinu group had followed those protocols during the excursion in which Schwartz was killed.

Parents whose children were at Muss during the rising violence, and parents whose children are still at the school, said that they did not worry about safety, even amid daily stabbings on the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Especially in light of what happened in France, I feel like I am more scared in this country than I ever would be in Israel, said Katie Rosenfeld of Weston, Massachusetts, whose daughter is on a semester-long program at Muss that started in late August and lasts until the end of January. I m actually more concerned about being blown up in a restaurant or mall sitting in New York or Boston or Chicago or Miami. Another mother of a child on the semester-long program, Naomi Friedman, said that she considers Israel safer than downtown Asheville, North Carolina, where she lives. Friedman noted that the wave of stabbings had reached Ra anana, near where the Muss school is located.

They have responded beautifully, she said. Strell, who lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, said that she managed her worries by chatting with other AHA moms over the messaging service WhatsApp. I think if we were in isolation I think we would have felt more insecure, she said. But we were supporting each other.

Mordechai Cohen, the head of school at Muss, where Jewish students range from Orthodox to secular, said that his program coordinates trips with Israeli security officials. Everything that we do is cleared by the security authority, he said. We don t go to places that are dangerous. Cohen said that Muss does not take students sightseeing or touring in the West Bank, though some students at Muss from the AHA group did visit the home of a student whose parents lived in a West Bank settlement. A representative for Birthright Israel said that the organization s trips do not visit or travel through the West Bank or East Jerusalem, and that itineraries are approved on a daily basis with Israeli security authorities. MASA does not bar West Bank travel, though participants are not allowed to travel independently to areas of the West Bank not fully under Israeli civil control. A representative for MASA said that program organizers are required to coordinate activities with Israeli security authorities.

Schwartz was killed traveling through Gush Etzion Junction, a commercial center in a section of the West Bank under full Israeli civil control. The junction has been the site of a significant number of attacks during the recent violence, including one on October 20, one on October 27 and one on October 28. Press accounts differ as to the nature of the service project Schwartz was traveling for participation. The MASA representative would not say whether Yeshivat Ashreinu followed MASA s security guidelines or whether it coordinated the trip with security authorities.

We intend to assess the specific circumstances and details of the incident in question; it is still too early to draw conclusions, the representative said. Yeshivat Ashreinu could not be reached by press time.

Yeshiva University s S. Daniel Abraham Israel Program, which coordinates gap year programs for students heading to Y.U. s undergraduate school, and which also works with Yeshivat Ashreinu, said that security protocols were up to the individual yeshivas.

Each school has its own professional leadership, and they make their own security decisions, said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, Y.U. s vice president of university and community life, in an email statement. Brander said that any policy changes in the wake of Schwartz s killing would be the decision of individual schools. For the AHA students at Muss, security rules grew tighter over the course of the fall as violence increased. Andrew Bowen, whose daughter attended the program, said that the students independent travel was eventually restricted. Those seemed like very reasonable precautions, he said. Bowen said he and his wife had said to each other that they would be more worried if their daughter were spending the semester in New York City. While the violence was very targeted and troubling overall crime in Israel is rather low, Bowen said. There s not a whole lot of muggings and rapes and murders and violence on the streets.

Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at [email protected] or on Twitter, @joshnathankazis


  1. ^ Yeshivat Ashreinu (

Keith Duane Britt – Winona Daily News

After a long and courageous battle with cancer, Keith Duane Britt, 56, was called home and entered into Eternal Peace on the evening of Nov. 9, 2015. He was a beloved husband, son, brother, uncle and friend. Keith was born July 28, 1959, in Lanesboro, Minn., to the late Walter Mahlon Britt and Muriel Delone Britt. Keith attended and graduated from Rushford High School in 1977. While in school, Keith enjoyed playing in and excelled in football, basketball, and baseball, lettering a total of 11 times. Keith enrolled in and completed his freshman year of college at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, after which he proudly enlisted and served in the U.S. Army. During which time he was a part of the Heavy Antiarmor Division, being designated and decorated as: Expert (M-16 rifle), Expert (hand grenade), Expert (infantryman badge).

After his initial tour of duty, Keith reenlisted as a specialist in Detachment 1, 72 Military Police Company, in the Nevada Branch of the Army National Guard, where he earned and was awarded The Army Commendation Medal, and was selected as Soldier of the Year for the state of Nevada. After moving in 1981 to Tonopah, Nev., Keith was a hardworking and dedicated employee at the Nevada Test Site for over 30 years. Keith proudly held the positions of: 1981 to 2006, Security Inspector TTR (Tonopah Test Range), 1983, Training Sergeant; 1993, Training Lieutenant; 2002, Training Captain Special Response Team Commander and Training Manager. From 2006 to 2009, Keith and Leslie moved to Pahrump, and he was designated as the Special Response Trainer and Lieutenant Team Instructor at the Nevada National Security Site (Wackenhut).

From 2009 to 2011, he returned to TTR assigned to be Security Project Manager. In 2012, Security Operations Coordinator. The tremendous care and pride with which Keith devoted his time and efforts to training those around him was an integral part of who he was. His sense of duty cannot be matched. After the work was done, which was hardly ever, you could find Keith enjoying his other passion in life, golf.

Keith was an extraordinary man. There are many who will deeply mourn his passing, as his was a life of service, excellence, dedication, loyalty and love. May you finally rest in peace, we love you. Keith is survived by wife, Leslie Britt; mother, Muriel Britt; brother, Walter (Bud) Britt; two nieces, KayCee and Alicia (Nick) Voyatzis; one nephew, Tyler (Mary) Britt; and four great-nephews, Hunter, Chase, Kai and Beau; and many aunts, uncles; and cousins. A Celebration of Life service was held Nov. 20, 2015, in Pahrump, Nev.

Memorial services will be held Dec. 5, 2015, at Rushford Lutheran Church, Rushford, Minn., with Military Honors. Services begin at 1 p.m., with family there for visitation from 12 to 1 p.m.

Honorary Pall Bearers are Bob Miller, Pete Julsrud, Craig Jameson, Lyndon Johnson.

An island nation slips into the relentless rising sea

Congress tries to rein in ObamaHours after President Barack Obama pledged Tuesday in Paris that the United States would be in the vanguard of nations seeking a global response to climate change, Congress approved two measures aimed at undercutting him.In a message to more than 100 leaders that the American president doesn t have the full support of his government on climate policy, the House passed resolutions, already approved by the Senate, to scuttle Environmental Protection Agency rules that would significantly cut heat-trapping carbon emissions from existing and future coal-fired power plants.The House votes by 242-180 and 235-188, mostly along party lines expanded to a global level the already profound gulf between Obama and the Republican-controlled Congress on domestic issues, demonstrating that the United States was hardly unified on the issue of climate change even as the president and other leaders sought to project solidarity.The measures will be sent to the White House, where Obama has said he will veto them. The New York Times EBEYE, Marshall Islands Linber Anej waded out in low tide to haul cement chunks and metal scraps to shore and rebuild the makeshift sea wall in front of his home. The temporary barrier is no match for the rising seas that regularly flood the shacks and muddy streets with salt water and raw sewage, but every day except Sunday, Anej joins a group of men and boys to haul the flotsam back into place. It s insane, I know, said Anej, 30, who lives with his family of 13, including his parents, siblings and children, in a four-room house. But it s the only option we ve got. Standing near his house at the edge of a densely packed slum of tin shacks, he said, I feel like we re living underwater. Worlds away, in plush hotel conference rooms in Paris, London, New York and Washington, Tony deBrum, the foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, tells the stories of men like Anej to convey to more powerful policymakers the peril facing his island nation in the Pacific as sea levels rise and to shape the legal and financial terms of a major United Nations climate change accord now being negotiated in Paris.DeBrum s focus is squarely on the West s wallets recouping loss and damage, in negotiators parlance, for the destruction wrought by the rich nations industrial might on the global environment.Many other low-lying nations are just as threatened by rising seas. In Bangladesh, some 17 percent of the land could be inundated by 2050, displacing about 18 million people.But the Marshall Islands holds an important card: Under a 1986 compact, the roughly 70,000 residents of the Marshalls, because of their long military ties to Washington, are free to emigrate to the United States, a pass that will become more enticing as the water rises on the islands shores.The debate over loss and damage has been intense because the final language of the Paris accord could require developed countries, first and foremost the United States, to give billions of dollars to vulnerable countries like the Marshall Islands. Senior Republicans in Congress are already preparing for a fight, they say on behalf of the American taxpayer. Our constituents are worried that the pledges you are committing the United States to will strengthen foreign economies at the expense of American workers, 37 Republican senators wrote last month. They are also skeptical about sending billions of their hard-earned dollars to government officials from developing nations. DeBrum is undeterred. It does not make sense for us to go to Paris and come back with something that says, In a few years time, your country is going to be underwater, deBrum said in an interview at his seaside home in Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands. We see the damage occurring now. We re trying to beat back the sea. Such travails, voiced by deBrum, have meaning in Washington because what happens on the Marshall Islands affects the United States on immigration policy, national security and taxpayer dollars.The two countries have a complicated history. During the Cold War, the U.S. military detonated 67 nuclear bombs on or close to the nearby Bikini Atoll and Enewetak Atoll after first relocating the Bikini Islanders around the Marshalls.At age 9, deBrum was fishing with his grandfather when he saw the flash of one of the tests on the horizon. Within seconds, the entire sky had turned red, like a fishbowl had been put over my head, and blood poured over it, he recalled.The deal offered: an open door to the Marshallese and Bikini islanders. That bargain has already fostered communities of thousands of Marshall Islanders in Springdale, Arkansas, and Salem, fleeing a deluged future. That 1986 compact also established a U.S. government fund to support Bikini Islanders as long as they continued to live in the Marshall Islands. Now the Bikini Islanders want to use that fund to move to the United States.In the first decades of his career as a public official, deBrum, 70, worked as a diplomatic envoy to help his country recover from the effect of the nuclear testing. Now his focus has shifted to recouping the costs of climate change. Tony s clearly been a very big player on the issue of loss and damage, said Todd Stern, the United States top climate change negotiator. He has a lot of credibility in these negotiations.