Israel-Hamas conflict: Universities put student safety first

The Israel-Hamas conflict has led to uncertainty in foreign exchange, gap year, and internship programs, as institutions seek to ensure the safety of participants.

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In an unprecedented attack last week, militants from Hamas breached the Gaza-Israel border, resulting in over 900 deaths and 2,600 injuries among Israeli civilians. The event marks the deadliest day in Israeli history. The U.S. confirmed that at least 11 American citizens were killed, with others missing or possibly captured.

The Israel-Hamas conflict has led to uncertainty in foreign exchange, gap year, and internship programs, as institutions seek to ensure the safety of participants. While some Israeli gap year programs plan to continue, university exchanges face uncertainty due to home institutions’ caution.

Amid rising tensions in Israel, US universities operating exchange programs are coordinating with the State Department’s Overseas Security Advisory Council and private security firms on potential student evacuations.

Nava Goldstein, a student from the University of Maryland scheduled to study at Tel Aviv University for a year, is among those affected. Goldstein, who arrived early for an immersive Hebrew language course, returned to the U.S. for the holidays and now finds herself unable to go back to Israel. “I’m a bit lost, in the middle of two different locations. I picked my classes, I feel like I very much have been a student for a month. I have no choice but to come back,” she said.

Discord within and across Harvard

Meanwhile, a coalition of 34 student organizations at Harvard University issued a statement attributing recent violence to “the Israeli regime,” citing years of occupation and labeling it an “apartheid regime.” The groups endorsing this stance ranged from Muslim and Palestinian support organizations, to groups such as Harvard Jews for Liberation and the African American Resistance Organization.

Harvard President Claudine Gay and 15 deans expressed their sorrow over the recent Hamas attack on Israeli civilians, unequivocally condemning the “terrorist atrocities.” Gay, however, said that the student groups do not represent the views of Harvard University. 

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