Amid COVID-19, US volunteers help teach children in Israel's periphery

Issrael's periphery is filled with disadvantaged communities, who can struggle with the shift to remote learning.

Israeli students arrive to school, at a high school in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, November 29, 2020. (photo credit: FLASH90)
Israeli students arrive to school, at a high school in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, November 29, 2020.
(photo credit: FLASH90)
With the COVID-19 pandemic closing down forcing a shift from classrooms to remote learning, a few US volunteers are working to make sure the children in Israel's periphery do not get left behind.
Globally, around 90% of governments ordered a shift to some form of remote learning due to the virus, affecting an estimated 70% of children. However, 30% of them are known to lack the ability to learn remotely, either due to technological limitations or otherwise.
And with COVID-19 having also forced young adults out of work or making them defer their college studies, several volunteers have stepped up to help the children of Israel's periphery.
One of them, 23-year-old San Diego native Zach Fish, came to Israel after the pandemic cost him his job as a Costco event manager.
He then came to Israel and, deciding to help those hurt most by the crisis, joined a program run by MASA Israel and BINA: The Jewish Movement for Social Change to teach Israeli Arab children at a Jaffa school.
“Kids should be at school, socializing and interacting with each other, but instead they are learning on Zoom,” Fish said. “I teach English at a school in Jaffa which has one English teacher for nearly 700 pupils. I am really happy to join the staff and make a difference!”
Another volunteer, San Francisco native Alyssa Alishoev, also came to Israel to help make sure youths from disadvantaged communities receive education amid the pandemic.
Working at schools in Nazareth, Alishoev helps bring educational opportunities to a city that has been slow to open up compared to others in the country, as it has been labeled a red zone due to high cases throughout much of the pandemic.
At the time of writing, despite Israel having entered a third lockdown, schools are reopening nationwide, despite the fears by teachers that they won't be vaccinated soon enough.
Teaching during the coronavirus pandemic has been especially challenging, with many teachers struggling to cope with the shift to remote learning, and many others – especially in disadvantaged communities in the periphery – struggle with a lack of resources needed to properly adjust.
This was stressed in a May op-ed in The Jerusalem Post penned by Jehuda Haddad, president of the Shamoon College of Engineering, who argued that in the current day, computers are a basic need, and urged distributing them to students.
"Distributing computers to pupils will help advance digital literacy, and place the educational system at the forefront of computer-based pedagogy," he wrote.
"By doing so, we will increase the prospects for a better future for additional groups in society and uplift education. We can ensure that academia will also be accessible to the boy from the peripheral town of Yeroham, and to the girl from the peripheral Bedouin town of Rahat, when they come of age."
In addition to often lacking technology, some communities in the periphery are also known to have inadequete cellular reception.
It is for this reason that in November, then-communications minister Yoaz Hendel announced a plan to expand cellular reception to cover 95% of the country as opposed to 75%, particularly in areas in the periphery.
"Residents of the Arava, the Galilee, the Negev, and the Golan Heights are entitled to the same great cellular reception that residents of Israel's center have," Hendel said at the time.
"The peripheries around Israel are national destinations and therefore need advanced infrastructure and full cellular coverage. This is an essential service that contributes to life-saving and quality of life anywhere anytime. The current reality is not acceptable and therefore a fundamental change is needed."
Jehuda Haddad and Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.