Thursday, February 9, 2023

Mideast strife threatens trip

October 17, 2000

The recent clash in Israel may cause some MSU students to put their winter break plans on hold.

A bloody clash between Israelis and Palestinians broke out late in September. The violence has lasted for a month and has left about 96 people dead.

The Hillel Jewish Student Center has been planning to take about 60 students to Israel during winter break, but program director Bryan Abramson is concerned about student safety.

However, he’s optimistic the overseas clash will be cleared up by December before students leave MSU.

“We will take the appropriate steps if safety becomes an issue,” Abramson said. “But I hope it gets resolved by then; I don’t want to deny MSU students a chance to visit Israel. This is a wonderful opportunity for students.

“We’re hoping there will be a peaceful resolution established in Israel that will allow safe travel for everyone, not just Jews.”

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat met with President Clinton Monday at a summit in Egypt to talk of stopping the violence. After 12 hours of talks, there were no claims of progress made.

The Hillel Jewish Center is a chapter of Hillel International. Abramson said the international organization is keeping an eye on the overseas violence and will inform prospective travelers if making the trip in December would be too dangerous.

The application process for the free trip started earlier this fall with students completing an online application. From there the students were interviewed to make sure they met eligibility requirements.

To be considered eligible for the trip, students must be 18 to 26 years old, a current student at MSU or other local colleges, identify themselves as Jewish and never have gone on a peer trip to Israel.

Once the amount of open spots had been determined, eligible students had their names entered in a raffle to determine who won a spot on the 10-day trip. But international studies junior Josh Goldblatt acknowledges that the students chosen may be reluctant to go on the trip.

“I can see how it would discourage some but it shouldn’t because (the program directors) will take care of them,” said Goldblatt, who took the trip last year. “They should understand that the people planning the trip wouldn’t put people in a dangerous situation. If they have to change the dates to some other time then they can do that.”

The trip - also sponsored by Birthright Israel 2000 - is free, but students must pay a $200 deposit fee, which is refunded at the end of the trip.

The deposit was well worth it for Barbara Smith. The engineering arts junior took the trip last year and encouraged others to apply this year.

“It’s a tremendous program. It’s a way to connect with other Jewish people, to connect to Judaism, to the country itself,” she said.

“You can’t really put words to it.”

Smith said she feels the conflict will raise awareness about Israel and cause more interest in the trip.

“I think it would encourage people to protect Israel,” Smith said. “People find ways to protect things that are important to them.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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