• August 30, 2015

8 U.S. Colleges Join in Promoting Israel for Study Abroad

As part of an effort to raise Israel's profile as a study-abroad destination, eight American universities are starting or expanding programs to send students there.

The projects, which start in 2011 and 2012, were spurred by $400,000 in grants from Masa Israel Journey, a New York nonprofit financially supported by the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency for Israel.

In the past decade, the Palestinian uprising and two wars have created security concerns that helped lead to a drop in the number of American students choosing to study in Israel.

Israel is 22nd out of the top 25 study-abroad destinations for students from the United States, according to the Institute of International Education, which advised Masa on the programs.

A total of 2,322 American students participated in study abroad in Israel in 2007-8, the most recent year for which data are available, and 2,226 the previous year. By contrast, more than 30,000 went to Britain, the top destination, in 2007-8.

Avi Rubel, director of Masa's North American operations, said that it was too early to know how many students would participate in the new programs, but that he hoped to propel Israel into the top 15 study-abroad destinations in the coming years.

Students wanted to study in Israel, he said, but not all were attracted by the academic programs traditionally offered to them, which have focused on Middle Eastern studies, Hebrew, and religious studies.

"In business, Israel is one of the centers of entrepreneurship in the world. You can have an amazing academic experience and an internship on par with London or anywhere else—it just hasn't been available until now," he said.

"In the research we did with students, they told us that they would go to Israel if those things were available," Mr. Rubel said. "We think students have Israel on their radar screen as a place they would like to go but are actually choosing other destinations because the course work and those experiences haven't been available."

The institutions receiving money from Masa are Arizona State University, Barnard College, Case Western Reserve University, Michigan State University, the New Jersey state-university system, the University of Florida, and the business schools of the University of Maryland and of Washington University in St. Louis.

Some of these efforts are building on existing programs.

Michigan State, for example, has partnerships with four Israeli universities and has sent 101 students to Israel since 2005, 30 of them in the past two months.

"What we hope is that students will choose to study abroad for academic reasons and have an experience that they can't have here on the East Lansing campus," said Cindy Felbeck Chalou, associate director of the university's study-abroad office. "We hope that students will gain from a cross-cultural experience, not only learning about the host country and their people but gaining a perspective of the U.S. that they couldn't gain unless they went abroad and were looking through another set of lenses."


1. stamara - September 08, 2010 at 04:24 pm

Remember that Palestinians under occupation do not have freedom of education. They are restricted by Israel from travel abroad and between the West Bank and Gaza. Many schools and universities were damaged or destroyed during Israel's devastating war on Gaza in 2008-09. This is why Palestinian grassroots organizations are calling for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel until it abides by international law and ceases to impose an apartheid regime over millions of Palestinians.

2. princeton67 - September 08, 2010 at 08:57 pm

"have an experience that they can't have here on the East Lansing campus"
Well, taking a bus is certainly a different experience. The ultra-Orthodox try to make females sit in the back; and several passengers are soldiers carrying submachine guns. Then, there's the checkpoints.

3. eslombard - September 09, 2010 at 01:02 am

For 21 years (1948-69), the Hebrew University campus and library on Mt. Scopus were not available to Israel even though ordered by the UN in the truce with Jordan. Instead, we had to meet under the worst of circumstances in available rooms scattered about
west Jerusalem until eight years later we could manage to build a whole new campus.Whatever indignity or misfortune the Arabs may suffer, the list of Arab outrages against the Jews for most of 2500 years was unrelenting right up to their slaughter and exile from ten Arab countries 1948-56. The UNRWA is not caring for three generations of 900,000 Mizrachi Jewish refugees, is it?

4. lawman - September 09, 2010 at 11:36 am

I traveled to Israel in the summer of 2001, just months before our 9/11. The Israel is experienced was NOTHING like the Israel I saw and still see portrayed in the media. The culural diversity I experienced is breath taking. The acheiviements of the Israelis over a very short period of time in a hostile physical and political enviornment is quite inspiring. For college age studdents to visit this wonderful country and for them to interact with the real Israelis (both the 80% Jewish majority and the 20% Arab minority) would be a true eye opener!

5. zupixx - September 09, 2010 at 01:23 pm

to #1: why is it so that every time someone mentions Israel, no matter the context, someone has to jump and remind everyone how miserable the Palestinians are? Everything you are saying is correct, but it is irrelevant here. Not everything about Israel is political or relates to the occupation. Studying abroad in Israel is an amazing experience, and it is truly something one can do without having to think about the Palestinians. Perhaps you should try it yourself; it will change your life and make you realize Israel is not the source of all evil in the world as so many Arabs/Muslims have been brainwashed to believe. If you ever asked yourself why the Palestinian issue is not so popular here in America, it is because of people like you, who have to jump and scream "but the poor Palestinians!" or "but the occupation!" every time Israel is mentioned. Enough already, we are tired of this. The occupation is terrible and must end, I agree, but here was not the place to talk about it. As for boycotting Israel, well, if you want to be childish (you hit me so I don't talk to you, yeah, very mature), go ahead. Luckily, some Palestinians realize there are better ways to improve their situation.

6. oscarw - September 11, 2010 at 09:57 am

zupixx must live in another, alternate universe. EVERY mention of Israel is a political statement. The concentration camps where the Palestinians are corralled, the lebensraum domestic policy which started in the 1920s and which is called zionism today is entirely political. Lastly, what, if not political, is the Israeli tail wagging the American dog?

7. interested_reader3 - September 14, 2010 at 02:21 pm

By the way, is anyone saying that students shouldn't go to China, or India/Pakistan/Kashmir, or Ireland, or South Africa - or other countries with huge internal problems with different ethnic/religious/language/identity groups vying for land and political control? Speak up!

On a different not, our daughter attended an abroad program in Chile during a very difficult political time there. Our advice to her was to keep her head up but her mouth shut - be an anthropologist: envelop yourself in the culture, learn the language and the history in order to better observe, experience, and analyze. (Basic liberal arts goals.) BUT, wait to draw conclusions and make plans to implement any societal-changing forces until AFTER you have returned to the U.S. When in the country, you are a student and a guest. What's to stop an American student visiting Israel from getting involved with the peace process (from either side) - nothing! But perhaps the better use of student years is the afore-mentioned liberal arts goals. Be a student when you are a student, and feel free to join or start your own organization to deal with whatever LATER.

8. aimeew - September 15, 2010 at 06:13 pm

I spent a year studying abroad at Hebrew University in Jerusalem when I was an undergraduate from my home university, American University. I received a great education and this experience proved to be a pivotal point in my life. Israel is nothing like what you read on the news or hear about from the vast majority of the public. For everyone writing negative comments on this post, I encourage you to visit Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza yourself, to really understand the situation and region. For me, studying abroad at an Israeli university was my solution to gaining a greater understanding of the region and the people.

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