Amador County resident volunteering for Kurdish military group killed abroad

Michael Israel, 27.
Michael Israel, 27. Photo courtesy of Hanna Bohman

A former Amador County resident and local labor activist was killed abroad while volunteering for a Kurdish group fighting the Islamic State, according to a post from the group’s Facebook page.

The People’s Defense Units, an armed service of the Federation of Northern Syria’s Rojava region also known as YPG, identified Michael Israel, 27, as one of two international fighters killed Nov. 24 during an airstrike by Turkish warplanes in western Manbij.

In a Facebook post dated Aug. 10, Israel wrote that he was in Rojava and encouraged others to learn about the area’s revolution.

“The Rojava struggle is the most dynamic and ground breaking revolutionary movement of our time,” he wrote. “I am determined that it is the job of leftist allies and internationalists to rally behind this movement, to help build it up and learn from it.”

Public records indicate that the 27-year-old resided in the Amador County town of Jackson. The Sacramento chapter of the Industrial Workers of the World, a labor union started in 1906 with ties to socialist and anarchist labor movements, posted about Israel’s passing, saying he was a member of the group.

Vancouver resident Hanna Bohman said she met Israel last year at a training academy for incoming international fighters volunteering for the KPG and described him as a level-headed person. She said she was in the country at the time working for the Women's Defense Units, known as the KPJ, the all-female sector of the Kurdish military organization.

According to Bohman, the city where Israel was most recently working in, Manbij, was known as a dangerous area with heavy military activity.

“He’s one of those (deaths) that was particularly tragic,” Bohman said. “The world needs more people like him.”

Anne Colman, a teacher at the Mountain Oaks School in San Andreas, said she taught Israel from from eighth grade until he graduated from the charter school in 2007. She described him as a motivated student who carried a passion for social issues and political science.

“We say we want to create a socially conscious, morally upright global citizens, and that’s what Michael was,” Colman said. “He viewed what was happening in Syria like it was happening in his own backyard.”

Israel later attended Columbia College in Sonora, studying social sciences from 2008 to 2014, according to Cari Craven, the school’s executive assistant to the president.

Israel’s family did not return requests for comment on Thursday.

A request for additional information from People’s Defense Units group regarding Israel’s death was also not returned.

Nashelly Chavez: 916-321-1188, @nashellytweets