Intifada deters students

May 18, 2001

Israel's universities are losing overseas students as a result of fears over the intifada .

New York University last week emailed its Jewish students warning them not to visit Israel because their safety could be at risk.

NYU's warning followed State Department advice issued in April recommending US citizens to defer travel plans to Israel.

The university has withdrawn support for the Israeli campus-based Birthright programme. The programme has enabled more than 25,000 students from 25 countries to visit Israel since it was initiated a year and a half ago by philanthropists Charles Bronfman and Michael Steinhardt, with the support of the Jewish Agency and world Jewish communities.

Shimon Lipsky is director of the division of undergraduate studies at the Hebrew University's Rothberg International School, which organises one-year undergraduate programmes for foreign students. He said: "We had the same situation when the intifada started. Some universities, for example California State, tried to persuade their students to leave.

"Universities tried to tell their students that if they did not come back, they would not get credits. Universities were afraid they would be sued if something happened."

Mr Lipsky added: "We think we will have 40 or 50 per cent of the students we usually have and that may be optimistic."

Michael Jankelowitz, a Jewish Agency spokesman, said that a number of universities had cancelled official connections with the Birthright programme, but that students could still come on their own.

More than 500 people - most of them Palestinians - have been killed since the intifada started in September.

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