Four students are enrolled in a yearlong study abroad program at the University of Haifa in Israel, which has been reinstated after some debate.
Up until 2002, the California State University system had three study abroad programs at Haifa University, Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University in Israel.
The programs were halted in 2002, with three students enrolled in the program, when the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning.
The U.S. travel warning was issued when Israeli-Palestinian violence increased during the Second Intifada, or second Palestinian uprising. The travel warning was issued on July 6, 2002, six days after a bombing on the campus of Hebrew University in Jerusalem that killed five Americans.
CSU policy does not allow travel to countries that have travel warnings, according to CSU spokesperson Erik Fallis.
Recently, the CSU decided to reassess safety in Israel.
“Ideally, we want to give students the opportunity to study abroad wherever they want,” Fallis said. “If it was something we could do securely, we would do it.”
To assess safety, the Chancellor’s Office sent Charlene Minnick, assistant vice chancellor for risk management and public safety, and Leo Van Cleve, director of international programs, to Israel. In addition, the CSU hired an outside consultant, the Salamanca Group, to assess security in Israel.
According to Fallis, the CSU did not release specifics on the report, but said overall the situation has become more stable. The CSU opened applications for the program while it was still being decided upon. Students who applied by the Dec. 15 deadline did not know if they would be heading to Israel in fall 2012 or not.
The decision to reinstate the program was based upon security, according to Fallis.
Since the CSU began discussing reinstating the study abroad program, two letters have been sent to the Chancellor’s Office.
The letter in opposition to reinstating the program was led by Cal State Northridge professor David Klein. Klein’s website hosts the open letter that is signed by 127 individuals, many from CSUN.
The letter makes six points not to reinstate the program, including the 2002 U.S. State Department travel warning, safety concerns in addition to the travel warning and citing “prominent intellectuals have compared Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to Apartheid in South Africa.”
Cal State Long Beach Professor Emerita Sherna Gluck signed the letter.
“I cannot support cooperation with Israeli universities and certainly cannot endorse our CSU students attending these institutions any more than I supported exchanges with South African apartheid universities,” Gluck said via email.
Another letter was sent from a group called Scholars for Peace in the Middle East saying they “applaud the chancellor and the Board of Trustees of the California State University System for their decision to reinstate the International Program to Israel.”
According to Fallis, the CSU anticipates additional students turning in late applications for the program.