Israel study abroad ban lifted by ‘U’


When I first came to the University of Minnesota four years ago, it was my dream to study abroad in Israel. I quickly learned that studying abroad in Israel was a pretty difficult task to accomplish here.

Israel has been placed on the State Department’s Travel Warning list and is currently grouped together as “Israel, The West Bank and Gaza.” The travel warning reads:

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to Israel, the West
Bank, and the Gaza Strip, and about threats to themselves and to U.S. interests in those
locations.  The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to remain mindful of security
factors when planning travel to Israel and the West Bank and to avoid all travel to the
Gaza Strip.  This warning replaces the Travel Warning issued January 15, 2009, to
update information on the general security environment in Israel, the West Bank, and the
Gaza Strip.

Because of this travel waning, the University did not endorse any type of learning abroad experience there. If I wanted to study abroad in Israel there were two options I could have chosen. The first was to petition the University’s travel abroad risk assessment advisory committee proving that I had some sort of connections on the ground as well as an evacuation plan. The second was to disaffiliate from the ‘U’ for the semester and join a different program at another university. Both processes were long, tedious and extremely unappealing to me.  As a result, I did not get the opportunity to spend a semester studying abroad in Israel.

A few days ago, I found out that the University has finally lifted its travel ban to Israel and now offers two programs for students to study in Israel. For the first time in the U’s history, students have the University’s support to study in Israel.

I was not the only student who was excited to hear the news. “I am very happy to hear that there is study abroad, in Israel,” said Zach Stern, a second-year journalism student. “I have been there before, and as a Jew I feel a deep connection to the country. I am eager for the opportunity to study at one of the world’s best universities.”

“With the new study abroad program that is in place, students are finally going to be able to study in Israel without first needing to go through the petition process,” said Shawn Abelson, vice president of campus advocacy group Gopher Israel. “I think a lot of Jewish students who enroll at the ‘U’ come with an understanding that studying in Israel is something that is unobtainable or difficult to accomplish at this institution. Hopefully that perception will change with the current program that is set in place. The members of Gopher Israel have been fighting hard for this outcome, and it excites me to know that the ‘U’ will finally allow students to study in Israel.”

Students will be able to study abroad starting in Fall 2010 through programs with two of Israel’s top universities — Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Haifa. The programs require students to take a minimum of 15 credits a semester, and the cost will be comparable to the current University tuition. There are scholarships available through Masa Israel and the JCC for Jewish students. Students can still go through the petition process in order to study at other Israeli institutions. For more information about study abroad in Israel or other countries through the University go to the University of Minnesota Learning Abroad Center.