Citing Security, School Recalls Its Students Studying in Israel

The University of California has suspended its junior year abroad program in Israel and is recalling its 27 remaining students studying there, though not all are heeding the call.

Citing “dramatically escalating violence” in the region, university officials made the recall official on April 11 for its students, who are enrolled mainly at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University.

An additional 28 students, who had enrolled at Israeli universities last fall, have already returned because they had completed the semester or for personal reasons.

The decision applies to students from all nine university campuses, although the bulk of the recalled students are from the campuses at Berkeley, Santa Barbara and San Diego.

Jennifer Dekel, one of three students from the Los Angeles campus — UCLA — in Israel, told the campus paper, The Daily Bruin, that she was staying put.

“I have decided to remain in Israel and I am deeply disappointed” in the university’s decision. “I do not believe that it is anyone else’s position to decide for me whether or not I feel safe living here,” Dekel e-mailed the Bruin.

Another UCLA student, Robbie Hurwitz, said he had not yet decided whether to leave or stay.

A university spokesman Hanan Eisenman said that he did not know at this point how many other students would decide to stay in Israel.

Although the university will make every effort to smooth the way for students who are returning in the middle of the spring semester, those deciding to stay will have to enroll on their own at their Israeli institutions, renegotiate academic credits with their home campus, and risk some financial aid, Eisenman said.

The school will re-evaluate the situation in the coming fall — and in the meanwhile is leaving its administrative infrastructure in Israel in place, said Eisenman.

He added that the university had consulted with unspecified Jewish community leaders before deciding on the suspension.

Gia Daniller of the Jewish Community Relations Council in San Francisco, who has been the chief liaison with the state’s academic institutions, said there had been no formal consultation with university officials, but that there is no intention to protest the university decision.

“Our main concern is that whether the students stay or come home, they should not be penalized academically or financially, whatever their decisions,” said Daniller.

The private University of Southern California does not have a formal program in Israel but assists students who enroll on their own at the Hebrew University of Tel Aviv University, Study Abroad adviser Peter Hilton said.

Four USC students were studying in Israel during the 2001 spring semester. However, all had returned when USC suspended the program in August of last year.

The only California university, and certainly the only public one, to continue its program in Israel at this point is the 23-campus California State University.

While Cal State is evaluating the situation on a daily basis, at the time of the interview two its students and their American faculty advisor were remaining at the University of Haifa, said Leo van Cleve, director of international programs at Cal State headquarters in Long Beach, Calif.

There is some irony in the continuing presence in Israel of Cal State, since it was the first to suspend its program and recall its students in October 2000.

Under heavy pressure by the Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California, the university reversed its stand, with the provision that its students would study only in the “safer” city of Haifa, but not in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

Since that time, Haifa has also suffered major suicide bomb attacks.

However, even disregarding conditions in Israel, it “would be difficult to justify continuing the program” without a substantial increase of participants over the two students now enrolled in Haifa, said van Cleve.

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