Rutgers students enjoying Israel. Clearly at serious health risk, dodging missles and bombs and stuff.

Rutgers students enjoying Israel. Clearly at serious health risk, dodging missles and bombs and stuff.

In other words they canceled their study abroad program. There are so many students at Rutgers that are Jewish, and over a hundred were there on other trips this winter.

RUTGERS —Nine students who planned to spend the spring semester studying in Israel had their plans interrupted when school officials deemed the trips too risky because of the conflict in Gaza….

Barry Qualls, vice president of undergraduate education, took responsibility for the decision to withdraw university approval of a program. Three students each would have been sent to Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the University of Haifa and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

The decision was made, said Qualls, “Because none of the three sites were considered safe from air attack and from suicide bombers.”

He said he made the final decision after consulting with the chairman of the university’s Department of Jewish studies, university counsel and Study Abroad, a program at Rutgers that sponsors study at universities in 20 countries.

“Even as we recognize that Israel lives under constant threat of attack and that Israeli universities have very thorough security programs to ensure students security, the situation there now is so volatile that we believed that we must suspend the programs for the spring term,” said Qualls.

He added. “Our students’ security is too uncertain in these political conditions. Their security is our first concern as it is our first responsibility.”

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Rabbi Yonah


  • I doubt it.
    It sucks that schools act this way, because it shows a total lack of understanding. At the same time, what can you really do? That’s the school system in America for you. Everything is bureaucratic. Heaven forbid one of those students gets hit with a bomb and won’t be able to pay the school all those loans that they owe.
    My school used to have an exchange program with Jerusalem that got cancelled after the school’s lawyers advised the school that it wasn’t safe. Still, I talked to my school and they said that I may still be able to go. So while I can see where the school is coming from, I bet if those students fought for it they could still get something.

  • a concern for the safety of the students isn’t a “boycott”. the headline is wrong and if the board of directors at the university is doing that out of fear for the lives of the students then it’s fine by me. if, however, it’s a political decision then it’s wrong.
    still, to those who DO boycott israel i advise to throw away their Intel powered computers, half of the medicines they use, their portable USB drives and many more things that they take for granted and aren’t aware they’re “israeli” (and if they want to boycott jewish things, then by all means, let them return to the stone age).

  • I’m going to defend Yonah here.

    Israel is not a dangerous country unless you go to one particular region. Even then, the odds of you dying in a car accident are greater than falling victim to terrorism. The thing about terrorism is that a small number of attacks can scare an entire population.

    Rutgers is making a decision to exclude Israel from being part of an academic exchange. The reason, ostensibly the security of their students, is actually a surrender to terrorism and to fear. The statistics don’t bear out the fear and if this university VP had considered that he is supporting the intentions of terrorists, he might have thought about this a little harder.

    In theory, every university and every program that is in some way involved with Israel could end up excluding Israel from participation in these exchanges or visits. After all, security is important and nobody wants liability here. This is the problem because you are then doubly punishing the victim: first through the terror and then by preventing the victim from enjoying interaction with your students becauase of the terror. It is an illogical and perhaps even unethical outcome and a clear victory for the terrorists.

    Finally, to put it into perspective, think about how many tens of thousands of Birthright groups have gone on Israel visits. Number of casualties? Zero.

  • Ordinarily I would say that this could border on boycott (may be a wee bit strong), but at least one of those schools is near Sderot, Ben-Gurion U. U of J? I don’t know. Doesn’t seem to be in harm’s way. Haifi U is closer north so I don’t know there either. An Israeli could give a better idea! Did they talk to any? When does spring semester start, March or April? I would think they could wait a bit longer to decide.

    I went at 16 with Young Judea just before they were giving the Sinai back. We got to climb it still (unbelievable experience) but there was some trouble, we almost didn’t get to go and after, we ended up spending 2 nights in a bomb shelter. Israel has been facing attacks for so many years (I went in 78) and tourists come and go safely all the time. It may be that you have to change your plans to safer areas, which happens often with no problems.

  • The funny thing about our school canceling the exchange program with Israel is that people get mugged and assaulted in front of the school’s dorms all the time. We even had a student that got kidnapped last semester. Israel is probably safer than right outside our own school buildings.

  • With Islamic fundamentalism on the rise across Europe, not to mention massive terror attacks in London and Madrid, perhaps they should cancel study abroad programs in Europe as well. Or maybe they should just forbid the Jewish students from going, given that anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic attacks are also on the rise in Europe.

    Americans claim to be great friends of Israel, but they are always the first ones to cancel trips here as soon as something happens.

  • Easy thing, the students can go by themselves if they want to, but a school can be held responsible when organizing / enabling exchanges with places that are possibly not safe just as much as any university over here would advise its foreign exchange students to stay away from certain neighbourhoods. A couple of years a ago, a friend of mine who’s a HUJI professor told me foreign students (from Europe) weren’t coming because of safety concerns at that time, and he, being a father, could appreciate of that decision. We should occasionally give people the benefit of the doubt and consider Mr Qualls’ decision led by actual concern for the safety of his students and not try to suggest political motivations where there are none apparent at all.

  • no israeli establishment is completely safe, yet the palestinians have shown they target schooling establishments (i say “palestinians” and not one specific group because both the hamass and the PLO have done this).
    as a reply to Liza R, as a resident of sweden i believe that jews in general and israeli jews in particular should stay away from the city of malmö and that in some places in sweden it’s more dangerous to live than in most of israel (for an israeli jew).
    personally, i believe that israeli universities are not that unsafe.

  • There has only been one attack at an Israeli university, Pastaman. That was a suicide bombing. It was successful, but that means that every time terrorists target one type of location then it permanently becomes off-limits to scared university administrators. Once again, this isolates Israel without regard to actual statistics and rewards terrorism while doubly harming the victim.

  • Froylein, the students can’t go on exchanges or secure funding when it is available for such exchanges. The decision is not based on facts but on fear. I repeat that it’s more dangerous to drive in Israel – which actually has an accident rate that compares favorably with Western Europe – than to be hurt in a terror attack.

  • themiddle, please re-read the last sentence i wrote. better yet, let me quote myself:
    “personally, i believe that israeli universities are not that unsafe.”
    yes, i remember that suicide bombing. still, the israeli universities, being open to ALL, have a very loud body of students which are (dare i say) muslim extremists and extreme leftists. this, as i believe, is something the israeli universities have to get rid of.
    again, i’m not saying that canceling the exchange program is a just thing, i’m just saying i understand their fear of being responsible for sending students to areas they see as “dangerous”.

  • As a semantic point, boycott seems to be generally defined as something like:

    To abstain from or act together in abstaining from using, buying, or dealing with as an expression of protest or disfavor or as a means of coercion.

    Which means that Rutgers would (a) have to do more than just cancel a program but even if we assume that Rutgers’ ONLY consumer interaction with Israel is the trip (b) they would have to have cancelled the trip as a means of protest or expression of disfavour.

    Neither seem to be true; it may be over cautious but Muffti suspects that deep down the canceling of programs stems from insurance/fear of law suit reasons rather than any anti-semitism or protest.

  • Middle, they can if they want to. One of the things young people should learn is that you don’t achieve your goals by whining. I went to live and work in Britain during my studies without partaking in an exchange programme or applying for a scholarship. I funded the whole enterprise myself through *gasp* working.

  • I was in the school during the second intifada. They told my friend, an observant Jew, that he couldn’t go to Israel, but he could go to Egypt instead….

  • It’s not about working, Froylein, it’s that students are restricted from going to Israel to take courses for credit or enhancing their education there.

    Muffti, thanks for the dictionary definition. Is it possible, do you think, to take an action for apolitical reasons but end up with an unintended political act? Rutgers is actually putting into effect, for “safety” reasons, a de facto boycott of Israeli higher learning institutions if the work involves being in Israel.

  • Who said their (foreign) credits aren’t being acknowledged? Who is keeping them from getting experience abroad? As far as I know from setting up the tutoring network for incoming students at my university back when, American universities are pretty generous when it comes to acknowledging foreign credits, and not all incoming students came on exchange or scholarship programmes.
    It all boils down to funding and a wrong sense of entitlement, and I find it irresponsible to read more into Rutger’s actions than there is. Had there been an anti-Israeli bias, they wouldn’t have started or continued the exchange programmes to begin with.

  • Sure, it’s possible. But it’s nothing like a de facto boycott – for one thing it is simply the exchange program. There is no wide academic ban – Israeli academics are welcome at Rutgers and vice versa. So Muffti doesn’t see much of a ‘political’ act here so much as an over-cautious approach to sending kids to Israel, probably due to insurance purposes or the like.

  • I know Vice President Qualls, and I am a Jewish professional living in Highland Park and am a neighbor of his.
    I assure you his intention is not to boycott Israel, it is the safety of all of the students that he has repsonsibility for. And as he is quoted, he consulted others including the head of the Jewish studies program.
    Nor is he quoted as cancelling the program, he said he has suspended it for one term.

  • As a very active member of the Jewish academic and alternative communities, and friend of Vice President Qualls, I am infuriated by the irresponsibility of this headline, and ask that you correct it.

  • You’re offended because there is no boycott to join or because you don’t consider this a boycott?

    Can you tell us when the last suicide bombing or the last “air attack” took place in Jerusalem or Haifa? How many rockets landed on Beer Sheva where Ben Gurion U is?

    Hizbullah has vowed to hit Jewish or Israeli targets because they blame Israel for the death of one of their leaders. Israeli intelligence claims the attack is going to hit outside Israel’s borders, somewhere abroad. Should all of Rutgers’ students’ interactions with any Jewish sites, centers or events cease until Hizbullah launches an attack? After all, the attack could take place anywhere.

  • People are not afraid to go to other parts of the world were terror groups can easily be created, but of curse why support the Jewish state….. that is racist beyond words, and Israelis and Jewish people in the world feel that they are being discriminated against every single day in one way or another. Shameful, since this country is supposed to be the “melting pot” where race and origin don’t matter….but it is not the reality.