The "Al Aksa Intifada", commonly known in
Israel as "the Matzav (situation)" refers to the
tense security situation that began on Rosh Hashana 5761
(September 2000) and unfortunately continues to the present day.
This matzav has consisted of recurrent incidents of
stonings, shootings, and bombings by Arab terrorists throughout
Israel. The aim of this project was to examine how the one-year
yeshiva programs have dealt with the matzav, and the
impact of the matzav upon the students' Israel
experiences, based upon feedback from students and their
parents. The author offers recommendations, which may be useful
to programs in the event that the matzav continues.
The author conducted interviews with
administrators and distributed questionnaires to students and
parents. The student sample consisted of 29 females and 13
males, and the parent sample consisted of 13 parents. The small
size of the sample limits the generalizability of the findings.
Nevertheless, the observational information obtained is valuable
in that it provides an initial read on how students, parents and
programs are functioning in light of the matzav.
The questionnaire responses in this study
indicated that the primary concern of parents regarding the matzav
was the physical safety of their children. Their concern was not
reported to be excessive. The author suggests some possible
explanations as to why parents are relatively calm, including
the fact that the matzav is not a "war"; that at the
time of the study, parents had already adapted to idea of the matzav;
and that they had more frequent contact with their children via
cell phone and email. Additionally, regular emails from the
yeshiva to the parents were greatly appreciated by parents who
received them, and seriously missed and needed by parents who
The responses indicated that shana aleph
students were concerned about their own safety, but also about
the future of the country and the well-being of other Israelis.
Students admitted being less scared about the matzav with
the passing of time, and felt that learning in Israel during the
matzav was a way of showing support.
How did the one-year programs safeguard their
students during the matzav? According to student and
parent responses, the female yeshivot generally implemented more
specific interventions such as travel restrictions and requiring
parental consent to travel to certain destinations, than did the
male yeshivot. Other measures taken by yeshivot included
disallowing or strongly advising against riding buses; providing
phone numbers of "safe" taxi companies; establishing an
emergency calling system to account for every students' safety
in the event of a bombing; daily news updates and informative
lectures; and frequent emails to parents to keep them informed
Shana aleph students and parents were
generally satisfied with the safety precautions taken by their
yeshiva programs. One salient point that emerged from the
responses was that students were appreciative when their
yeshivot related to them as mature adults when establishing
safety policy. Female shana aleph students in particular
were grateful when their programs provided frequent and updated
information about the matzav. The author points to
sex-role socialization as an explanation for the gender
differences in the approaches taken by yeshivot vis-à-vis safety.
The matzav impacted the students
experience in Israel by limiting the extent to which they could
travel the country. These restrictions often resulted in the
student spending a greater amount of time in the Beit Midrash,
with their learning becoming more intense earlier in the year
than is typical. Despite travel limitations, students reported
that the matzav had instilled their year with meaning,
and engendered a strong connection between them and the country
and people of Israel. Many students reported that they planned
to, or were considering aliyah.
In sum, while the matzav was a concern
for students and parents, it was not one that ultimately
elicited panic. How yeshivot responded to the matzav vis-à-vis their students
varied from institution to institution, and between genders.
Overall, students and parents were satisfied with the measures
taken by their yeshivot to ensure their safety, with females
finding provision of updated information particularly useful.
The matzav has had a powerful impact upon the students'
connection to Israel and its people.
Crisis intervention literature suggests that schools must
prepare to deal with crises if they are to do so effectively.
The author suggests that one-year yeshiva programs approach the matzav
as a crisis and respond accordingly. Based on the findings
reported above, the author recommends specific measures
administrators should take to prepare for another matzav year.
These measures include sending information about the school's
security policy to students and parents in advance of the year;
frequent emails to parents; heeding parental suggestions
regarding security; consistently updating students regarding the
events in Israel as they transpire; and keeping in mind the
maturity level of the students when setting safety precautions.
The author suggests that these recommendations are useful in
dealing with any crisis the yeshiva program may encounter.