Michael Israel 1989-2016

By Alisa Jacobs

Michael Israel was killed by a Turkish bombing of Syria in November, 2016. He was 27 years old. Over one year ago, he left his home in Jackson, California to fight ISIS with the People’s Defense Unit, or YPG in Kurdish acronym.

He visited friends and family in the United States for some months in 2015, then returned to Syria, stating, “This is not only a war against the spread of fascism by ISIS and their supporters in the Turkish government… the YPG is creating a revolutionary environment in Rojava, where liberated communities are not treated as conquered peoples but are instead empowered, allowed to self-govern and be the masters of their own destinies…

“The long-term aspirations of the revolution are to put a stop to the exploits of capitalism and imperialism that generate fascist, racist, and sexist belief systems as byproducts of their spread…

“YPG/YPJ have done incredible work liberating cities and villages in Rojava so far, but they are a poor army and the amount of destruction ISIS has left behind is indescribable. They need all of our support.

“I’m encouraging all of you back home to read about the situation here and how YPG/YPJ is making a difference.”

While Michael was articulate and outspoken in his battle against the many faces of fascism, he lived in a quiet sort of radiance, sometimes dressed in button up shirts with holes in them, often eager to pay for his friends’ meals, and, at one point, filled with deep concern over an injured deer he found in his backyard.

He was not one to brag about missing his own graduation when he was completing a peace walk from California to Washington, D.C. And, while he was unabashedly passionate about working class solidarity, he would neglect to mention that he was a founding member of the Sacramento Industrial Workers of the World. Members of the IWW, commonly known as the wobblies, peaceful anarchists with a strong focus on working class rights.

A few years ago, Michael gave me a book about the transition from feudalism to capitalism, and the struggles of the peasant class during that time. Upon discovering his death, I pulled the book out of my backpack. It smelled like many miles of travel, musty with old canvas.

An old bookmark was placed in its pages, and the bookmark proclaimed the words of Paul Monette, “Go without hate, but not without rage — heal the world.”

Michael was a volunteer, therefore he died with no funerary funds.

If you would like to donate to help Michael’s family afford the expenses of his burial, as well as the shipment of his body back home, you may do so at: www.youcaring.com/theisraelfamily-706143