The University of California has suspended its junior year abroad program in Israel and is recalling its 27 remaining students there, though not all are heeding the call.
Citing "dramatically escalating violence" in the region, UC made the recall official on Thursday, April 11 for its students enrolled mainly at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University.
An additional 28 UC students, who had enrolled at the 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 UC campuses, although the bulk of the recalled students are from the campuses at Berkeley, Santa Barbara and San Diego.
Jennifer Dekel, one of three UCLA students 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 EAP’s [Education Abroad Program] 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 wrote in an e-mail to The Daily Bruin.
Another UCLA student, Robbie Hurwitz, said that he had not yet decided whether to leave or stay. UC spokesman Hanan Eisenman said that he did not know at this point how many other students would decide to stay in Israel.
Although UC will make every effort to smooth the way for students who are returning in the middle of the spring semester, those deciding to stay would have to enroll on their own at their Israeli institutions, renegotiate academic credits with their home campus and risk some financial aid, Eisenman said.
UC will reevaluate the situation in the fall and in the meanwhile, leave its administrative infrastructure in Israel in place, Eisenman said.
He added that UC had consulted with unspecified Jewish community leaders before deciding on the suspension.
Gia Daniller, director of government relations and legislative affairs for 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 UC officials, but that there was 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," Daniller said. USC does not have a formal program in Israel but assists students who enroll on their own at the Hebrew University or Tel Aviv University, said study abroad adviser Peter Hilton.
Four USC students were studying in Israel during the 2001 spring semester. However, all had returned and none were in the pipeline 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 (Cal State).
While Cal State is evaluating the situation on a daily basis, at the time of the interview, two of its students and their American faculty adviser were remaining at the University of Haifa, said Leo Van Cleve, director of international programs at Cal State headquarters in Long Beach.
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.
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, Van Cleve said.
The University of Colorado and the University of Washington have also suspended their Israel programs, the Los Angeles Times reported, while the Brandeis University program remains in place.