Students in Israel Taking Air Battle in Stride

NBC 6's Ari Odzer's Daughters Shows the Conflict Thorough the Eyes of Students in Israel

The Israel Defense Forces said Monday that Hamas has now fired more than 1,000 rockets from Gaza, indiscriminately, at Israel’s cities in the past two weeks.

Israel’s pushback, called Operation Protective Edge, has been a relentless effort to force Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israel. Palestinian health ministry officials said Monday that 178 people in Gaza have died in the aerial assault.

The Israeli military said it’s trying to minimalize civilian casualties by warning people to leave buildings before they’re struck, but the task is nearly impossible when Hamas uses civilians as human shields.

“The rocketeers are firing from homes, homes that are actually command posts of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad army,” said Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in a press conference Monday.

Despite Israel’s assault on the Hamas infrastructure, the rockets keep coming, along with bomb alert sirens sending Israelis and visitors scurrying into shelters.

“Not knowing where to go sometimes if the air raid siren goes off is a bit scary and stressful,” said Jackson Parr, an American student from Pittsburgh.

Parr is one of 80 students from around the world doing research for a month at the Weizmann Institute of Science. The program accepts students who have graduated from high school and who are college-bound in the fall.

The Weizmann campus is in Rehovot, near Tel Aviv, within easy rocket range of Gaza. My own daughter, Jamie Odzer, is one of the 19 American students taking part in the program. She interviewed some colleagues with her cell phone, and emailed the video to NBC 6.

“Well, it’s an amazing experience and it’s definitely something I’ve not done before, but I feel quite safe over here, within the institute,” said Zena Stead, who is from England. “I mean there are things going on around us that are very dangerous, but I think myself and other people feel we are quite secure in the place we are now.”

The Weizmann program has students from Brazil, Mexico, Singapore, Australia, several European countries, and even an Inuit tribe member from the far north of Canada. So far, none of them have left early to go home.

“This is definitely a good experience, regardless of the situation, even though we’ve had to go to the shelters a couple of times, 5, 6, already, we feel safe, we’re enjoying it, carrying on with our research,” said Daniel Schreiber, one of the few Israeli students in the program.

Certainly, running to the bomb shelter every time the sirens go off has been a bonding experience. The students watched world cup games in the safe room, decked out in the colors of their countries. The German, Brazilian, and American contingents brought flags to wave. They play guitars and violins and chess while they wait for the all clear signal.

And they hope, and no doubt pray, for the violence to stop. I can assure you their parents are doing the same thing.

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