Life, Work, and Coping: An International Postdoc's View on the Situation in Israel

Joshua Macdonald, US: "I am still keeping track of events, but I have been able to refocus on work."

The Lowy International Bulletin has talked to Dr. Joshua Macdonald, a Zuckerman Postdoctoral Fellow in mathematics, who is currently working with the School of Zoology at Tel Aviv University.


Are you at TAU or abroad at the moment?


I was at TAU until Monday, October 16th. I am now visiting collaborators at the University of Warwick in the UK and will be heading to the US (where I'm from) on the 29th and staying there until at least November 11th. While in the US, I will visit other collaborators and attend a conference.

During the week of the 11th, I will assess the situation in Israel in consultation with my lab's PI and decide between returning or continuing my postdoc remotely until the situation calms again.


How have you been coping since October 7, 2023?


The first week was difficult; I was constantly reading the news. I live between Gaza and the airport, so the sirens went off many times — including a couple of close hits in Jaffa and Shapira. Those of us from the US, Canada, and Western Europe are not raised with the possibility of such a situation and are perhaps not as well equipped to handle it as Israelis.


I am, of course, horrified by the events of October 7th and everything that has happened since — the loss of so many lives is a tragedy.


That said, I do not have family in Israel and was fortunate to have no friends who were either kidnapped or murdered, though several of my lab mates do.


The rise of antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents worldwide is also highly concerning, as is the possibility of further escalation in the region. Now, almost two weeks into the Gaza war, I am still keeping track of events, but I have been able to refocus on work in the last week or so.


Are you managing to get any research done?


I had a tough time focusing on work the first week, but I have been able to get some work done in the last week or so.

My ability to refocus is aided by being a computational & theoretical biologist, so I do not need to conduct fieldwork or experiments.


How can the international community of researchers help right now?


The ability to visit collaborators at Warwick in the last week and the upcoming visits with collaborators in the US in the coming weeks have provided me with a relative sense of normalcy that has facilitated my ability to return to work.


Extending offers of visitor status, even for a few weeks, is especially important for international graduate students and postdocs who may need assistance to relocate from Israel quickly.


For example, on a personal level, being offered visitor status and help finding accommodation has made it possible for me to remain productive while not worrying about issues such as transportation and housing outside of Israel.


Other ways the international community can help are to understand delays in work being done and help with extensions on essential deadlines.


For example, I received a two-week extension on a reference letter submission deadline with the help of colleagues at the institution in question.


Do you have any other message you wish to share?


While in Israel, I heard from many family members and friends. I was glad to hear from them and their support meant a lot. However, if you have loved ones impacted by the war, please consider how you communicate when contacting them; "Are you safe?" or "What do you need?" is excellent.


Please don't ask about specific events, as this makes it more difficult to not hyperfocus on everything that is happening.




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