Visiting Israel

November/December 2002

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They choose to study abroad in a war zone. Every year, a few Stanford students travel to Israel. They go because they want to learn more about the region and its cultures. But mostly they go because they are Jewish and want to support their religion’s homeland. “When Israel’s in trouble, it’s even more important for me to be there,” says Keira Goldstein, ’02.

Studying in Israel is not as easy as in, say, Kyoto or Oxford, where Stanford has established centers. Although Overseas Studies would like to open a program in Jerusalem, academic director and earth sciences professor Amos Nur told Stanford Report in May, “we cannot [do so] unless a sufficient peace emerges.”

Meanwhile, students take leaves of absence, attend classes through another university, then apply to have the credits transferred. And because the State Department has issued a warning against traveling to Israel, Stanford policy prohibits undergraduates from tapping University funds to support their trips.

Senior Tali Golan, an international relations major focusing on the Middle East, spent last fall at Tel Aviv University. “I had a hard time sophomore year when the Intifada started, trying to understand what was going on from so far away,” she says.

Once Golan arrived in Jerusalem, though, the gravity of the situation became clear. “There were three huge attacks in one day,” she recalls. “I can remember getting on the bus and thinking, ‘Is this the bus that is going to blow up next?’” Uri Pomerantz, also a senior who studied at Tel Aviv University, accidentally left his backpack in a café there once. When he returned just minutes later, everyone inside had been evacuated and the authorities were hosing off tables, fearful that his backpack might contain a bomb.

Even in a nerve-racking atmosphere, Pomerantz was able to critically examine the conflict. “Both Palestinians and Israelis are right,” he concludes. “There needs to be a compromise.”

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