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UC may pull its Israel study abroad program

By David Scharfenberg, Daily Planet staff
Saturday March 16, 2002

The University of California may suspend its study abroad program in Israel because of escalating Middle East violence, according to a university spokesman. 

“We don’t want to send any signal that we are abandoning the state of Israel,” said Michael Reese, UC’s assistant vice president of strategic communications. “But student safety comes first.” 

Reese said the university will decide in the coming weeks whether to recall UC students currently in Israel, and whether to cancel next year’s program. He emphasized that any suspension of the program would be temporary. 

“Regardless of what we do, we will keep our infrastructure in place,” he said, referring to partnerships with Israeli universities in Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv, and a series of UC employees at each site who provide academic and day-to-day support for students. 

Fifty-five students from campuses throughout the UC system started the year in Israel, mostly in Jerusalem. Many have decided voluntarily to return home, and today, only 27 students remain. 

Reese said the university is not leaning one way or the other in deciding whether to recall students. 

“There are powerful arguments on either side, not the least of which are made by the students themselves, who want to stay,” he said. 

Reese said the university is in constant communication with UC officials in Israel and the U.S. State Department. He said a State Department advisory to recall students could render any debate on the issue moot. Reese said he has no knowledge that an advisory is forthcoming.