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News Clips 05/16/2013
Israel trip canceled due to Syrian conflict
Source: Tallahassee Democrat, 05/15/13
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By Lauren Gillespie
Plodding along on dunes of Israeli desert on camelback, Florida State University students absorb the nuances of a foreign nation’s landscape beneath an unfamiliar sun. Each summer, FSU’s study abroad program allows students the opportunity both to travel abroad and travel by camel in Israel. Due to conflict in the region, however, the 2013 Israel trip has been canceled, meaning camels will go unridden.
Despite program claims that Israel is statistically safer than Tallahassee, Florida State University called off its summer 2013 international program in Israel earlier this month among growing concerns about the country’s conflict with Syria.
The program, which included both classes and cultural excursions including the opportunity to ride a camel through the desert, was set to begin on May 8. On May 5, students received a phone call explaining that the trip was canceled.
“It was very disappointing,” Kyle Rowland, an affected student, said of the cancellation. “I knew there was a risk traveling to a country with so many enemies.”
FSU International Programs has offered affected students two choices: a full refund or a transfer to another summer program abroad. The full refund included the airplane ticket, textbooks and any other fee the student had incurred. This cancellation is limited to the summer 2013 program. If safety conditions improve by summer 2014, the trip will resume.
Meghan Greene of FSU IP said the program was canceled due to “escalating military action between Israel and Syria.”
Israel shot down a rocket in civil-war-ravaged Syria, and Syria interpreted the action as a declaration of war. While this conflict may not lead to an all out war between the two countries, FSU IP took precautionary measures anyway. Greene said the safety of FSU students and faculty is “paramount.”
“It is a safe place and the locations are very secure,” Greene said. “However the conflict was so close in proximity to travel in the excursions that safety must be kept in mind.”
FSU’s Study Abroad Israel website, FSUIsrael.com, said that “the situation is Israel is often misportrayed.”
“Statistically, Israel is safer than America,” the website says. “During the six weeks we were gone last summer, there were two murders in Tallahassee, a city of about 183,000, and zero murders in Israel, a country of about 7,766,000.”
Despite the current conflict, there will soon be over 30 FSU students in Israel, traveling on a Birthright trip. Ron Krudo, of Hillel at FSU, is leading the next Birthright trip to Israel on May 19. He will be taking students on a ten day trip through famous sites such as Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. He speculated reasons as to why the study abroad program was canceled.
“The [FSU study abroad] program was two months,” Krudo said. “Our trip is ten days. It is very different securing a program for that length of time.”
FSU International Programs maintains a delicate balance, the balance of inserting Americans into an authentic experience while also keeping them safe. In this situation, the circumstances were too dangerous.
Greene said FSU IP is doing everything they can to help students deal with the sudden cancellation. However, the cancellation has still disrupted some students’ plans.
Rowland, a rising senior, said the cancellation has not only ruined his summer plans, but has also disrupted his graduation track. He opted for the full refund.
“The only options available on such short notice were London, Prague and Valencia, Spain,” Rowland said. “They didn’t offer the same interesting classes.”
Further, Rowland lamented that he will not be able to participate in any international programs in his remaining time at FSU.
“I don’t think I will have the chance to do another program since I will be graduating,” Rowland said. “This was kind of it.”
Still, Rowland is appreciative of International Program’s efforts in helping the affected students.
“FSU has been helpful and resourceful,” Rowland said. “No one could have anticipated a flare-up between Israel and Syria. It’s not FSU’s fault.”
For students who wish to study in Israel in the future, FSU IP promised to constantly monitor the climate in the tumultuous region.