Many American students studying abroad in Israel forced to return home

The Associated Press via Mashable 

HARTFORD, Conn. — Some colleges in the United States are pulling students from overseas study programs in Israel as the conflict in Gaza rages, though the relative calm beyond the immediate battle areas is raising questions in some quarters about why they had to leave.

Colleges say security was the top concern, citing advisories about hazardous travel from the U.S. State Department and from insurance companies that cover students for health, accidents, security and even the cost of evacuation.

On July 21, the State Department issued a travel warning about the ongoing hostilities: "Travelers should avoid areas of Israel in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip due to the real risks presented by small arms fire, anti-tank weapons, rockets, and mortars, as attacks from Gaza can come with little or no warning." The U.S. government had already previously issued a strong warning about travel to Israel.

"On the one hand, we want to introduce students to the dimensions of conflict," said Yehuda Lukacs, director of the Center for Global Education at George Mason University in Virginia. "But this was too much because their safety and security were challenged."

It's not the first time colleges have withdrawn — at least temporarily — from overseas study programs because of conflict. Just recently, the University of Massachusetts Amherst suspended programs in war-torn Syria, and St. Lawrence University in New York called off its program in Kenya for fall, citing a State Department travel advisory. But the United States' close ties with Israel, along with the distance of many of the programs from the central areas of conflict, are leaving colleges far from unified.

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