U.C. shifts policy on Israel study abroad

Studying in Israel just got easier for University of California students, but only a little.

U.C. Provost Wyatt Hume announced policy changes last week that will give students easier access to non-U.C.-based study-abroad programs in Israel, assure uninterrupted financial aid and U.C. email accounts and, most importantly, guarantee a smooth re-entry to their home campus. The changes will be fully effective in the fall.

“Anything that makes it easier for students to go to Israel, we’re for,” said Gordon Gladstone, executive director of Hillel at U.C. Berkeley.

Prompted by safety concerns, in 2002 the University of California suspended its Education Abroad Program (EAP) in Israel, citing a U.S. State Department’s travel warning. This meant U.C. students wanting to study in Israel had to find other study-abroad programs, often forcing them to withdraw from the U.C. system, jeopardizing their financial aid and sometimes losing course credit.

Though U.C.’s EAP in Israel remains suspended, students can now take better advantage of other programs. At U.C. Davis, for example, students can choose from a menu of study-abroad options, all of which preserve their student status and transfer of credits.

A resolution in the California state legislature that would call on U.C. to revise its policy regarding study in Israel has languished.

In an opinion piece published in j. in February, the author of S.B. 18, State Sen. Carole Migden, wrote: “Studying in Israel could be one of the most rewarding and enriching experiences in a [student’s] academic career … It is time for the state legislature to step in and issue a directive to the U.C. system to remove all barriers to studying in Israel and to allow students to transfer U.C. financial aid and credits between U.C. and Israeli programs.”

Added Gladstone, “The new [U.C.] policy represents a partial solution, but it doesn’t get us back to the status quo ante of an EAP program in Jerusalem, where studying there was like taking classes at another U.C. campus. We’re happy to see incremental progress and we’ll be happier still when we can open the gates once again.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.