When he’s not co-coordinating JACC’s Hebrew language program, Yuval Karshai works for an organization called the Middle East Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow (MEET) that brings together young Palestinians and Israelis to learn computer science. He said he thinks the reaction of much of Israeli society to Palestinians and asylum-seekers comes from the same sources: fear and ignorance.
“People don’t know Palestinians,” Yuval said. “They don’t know asylum seekers.”
From this can arise an “us and them” mentality. “A lot of people don’t understand that their benefit is our benefit,” he said.
“It would make our society much more open and rich if it was able to accept this community,” he said.
After finishing his military service, Yuval decided he wanted to take a year-and-a-half off before he started school. He started working at MEET and, after a friend told him one sentence about JACC, he decided to apply to volunteer.
As co-coordinator of the Hebrew program, Yuval has been organizing the structure and class lists for the summer courses that began a couple of weeks ago. With 5 different classes available, Yuval has been inviting and interviewing prospective students, placing them in the appropriate level and making sure they are prepared to come to class at the start of the term.
Yuval said he thinks learning Hebrew is important for asylum-seekers because of their need to be able to navigate in the society in which they live.
“Everywhere in the world, without the local language you’re as good as a blind person,” he said. “You cannot read signs, you cannot talk to people, everyone can take advantage of you.” With Hebrew, Yuval said asylum-seekers have a basic and crucial tool they can use to get along in Israeli society and to claim better lives for themselves and their children.
In the future, Yuval said he is interested in continuing to work on human rights issues. Interested in law and institutional change, in the past month he’s been at JACC, he said he has learned a lot about government, politics and people and their differences. The people he has seen come to JACC, many of whom have young children, are looking to live a quiet and good life. Seeing this reality and how asylum-seekers are often portrayed has clarified for Yuval what he thinks is important.
“People are what matters, not politics or big games of control.”