Violence Prompts Some Foreign Students to Stay Away From Israel

Spate of attacks lowers enrollment of foreign students at some universities, but most Israel programs say they haven't been affected.

David Bachar

Some study-abroad programs at Israeli universities are experiencing cancellations and lower enrollment due to the wave of violence that has hit the country, administrators reported Tuesday.

However, most programs say they are unaffected by the increased tensions and are not seeing the drops in participation felt during and following the Gaza war in summer 2014.

Most affected so far by the spate of stabbing and shooting attacks are the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s English-language graduate programs, which target foreign students.

According to Jonathan Kaplan, vice provost of the university's international school, enrollment in the graduate programs, which began this week, was down 23 percent compared with last year. He noted that these programs were not affected at all by the Gaza War last year.

By contrast, he said, enrollment in undergraduate programs for study abroad students was up 21 percent this year – representing a return to the numbers that prevailed before the Gaza War, which took a large toll on these programs. However the undergraduate programs opened at the beginning of September, before the latest violence erupted.

At Tel Aviv University, the effect of the recent unrest has thus far been minimal, said Maureen Meyer Adiri, the director of international programs at the institute. Out of the roughly 800 students enrolled in semester and year-abroad programs at the university, three had pulled out last week, she reported. “They didn’t say specifically that it was because of the situation, but we assume that it is,” said Meyer Adiri. She added that there had been no cancellations in enrollment in English-language master’s degree programs.

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev reported a “minor drop in enrollment due to the security situation,” while the University of Haifa said it had not experienced any cancellations from foreign students that were related to the security situation.

For Taglit-Birthright, which brings young Jewish adults on free 10-day trips to Israel, this is not high season because most participants are college students who typically study at this time of year. A spokeswoman for the program said there are currently two Taglit-Birthright groups in Israel, and that their itineraries have not been modified in any way because of the recent flare-up of violence.

During the last Gaza War, by contrast, Taglit-Birthright prohibited groups from visiting vast swaths of the country that were considered dangerous and at high risk of missile attacks at the time. That included metropolitan Tel Aviv and most of the southern region.

The security situation, she reported, has not affected registration for winter break programs, which is even up 20 percent compared with last year.

In a similar vein, the Jewish Agency reported that it was unaware of any cancellations or drops in registration numbers in Masa or any of the other Israel experience programs it runs. Masa operates dozens of educational, volunteer and internships programs in Israel that target young Jewish adults.