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Israel/Palestine conflict affects Study Abroad

BY REBECCA MORIN | JULY 28, 2014 5:00 AM

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As nearly three weeks of fighting between Israel and Hamas continues, Johnson County residents picketed for peace for Gaza in hopes for a truce.

But University of Iowa officials didn’t wait for a ceasefire.

Starting in early July, UI Study Abroad indefinitely suspended all programs to Israel.

Archaeology in Israel, which became a study-abroad international program in 2013, was supposed to take place from July 6 to Aug. 21 at the Tel Azekah dig site — approximately 30 miles west of Jerusalem.

“Students who registered their travel with UI to undertake any other activity in Israel this summer were advised to return to the U.S. and offered logistic and financial support from UI to accomplish ticket changes to encourage a speedy return,” said Autumn Tallman, the associate director of UI Study Abroad.

Robert Cargill, a UI assistant professor of classics and religious studies, was to lead the program, in which 10 students were enrolled.

“As disappointing as it was not to be able to travel to Azekah and tour Israel and Jordan with my students, it was the correct decision to suspend the program for this year,” Cargill said. “The safety of our Iowa students must be our first priority.”

Starting on July 8, Israel began the war to halt Hamas’ rocket fire on Israeli cities.

Hamas wants to break a seven-year Israeli blockade of Gaza and believes the only way to force negotiations with Israeli officials is to keep fighting, as reported by the Associated Press.

According to AP, more than 1,030 Palestinians have been killed, and approximately 42 Israeli soldiers have died, as well as two Israeli citizens.

Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration banned flights to Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel.

After several days, the ban was lifted, and flights resumed to Israel.

Tallman said the UI routinely monitors areas after the U.S. State Department issues a travel warning or alert for a country. University officials then make a decision in line with what the State Department suggests.

In cases of emergencies, Tallman said she or a designated alternate answer a 24/7 emergency-response phone for UI Study Abroad for students.

“UI Study Abroad safety planning and crisis response are two areas in which I am routinely involved,” Tallman said. “We coordinate crisis response and facilitate communication among UI students abroad, their families, Study Abroad program leaders, UI administrators, U.S. Embassy staff, emergency responders abroad, and our international insurance provider.”

In addition to Israel, several precautions are being taken for students studying abroad in Russia.

There are four students studying language and culture in Moscow, and they are prohibited from traveling anywhere near the Ukraine-Russia border conflict area, Tallman said.

Tallman said the UI receives updates from the State Department and monitors the situation in Ukraine, as well as has an adviser remain in contact with the students traveling abroad there.

The UI isn’t the only university taking precautions — several other Big Ten universities have limited travel to Israel.

“Many of our peer institutions continued to operate programs in Israel after our program suspension, but we have witnessed increasing cancellations by other U.S. university programs in recent weeks,” Tallman said.

According to the Michigan State University’s State News, university officials cut programs to Israel on July 16 and decided to bring all students and faculty home.

Penn State students on a dig trip in Tel Akko were also evacuated from Israel, according to Penn State’s Daily Collegian.

The 19 Penn State students participating in the dig were evacuated to Jordan, then flown back to their home country.

Although universities are looking out for the best interest of the students, Cargill said the students are not only missing out in research but also the opportunity to meet several associates in Israel and Palestine.

“I miss being in Israel and digging at Azekah not only because I’m missing out on research, but because my Israeli and Palestinian colleagues are also my friends, and I miss them and am mindful of them and their families while they are in harm’s way,” he said. “They are in my thoughts daily.”


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