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Kathleen Sideli
Director, Overseas Study Program

Steve Weitzman
Director, Jewish Studies

Last modified: Thursday, February 3, 2005

IU reinstates overseas study archeology program in Israel

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University has reinstated a summer overseas study program in Israel that was suspended three years ago after the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning for that country.

The three-week program involves participation in an archeological dig at Tel Beth Shemesh, an ancient city from biblical times. It will take place in June if enough students sign up for it, according to Kathleen Sideli, associate dean of international programs and director of overseas study.

IU suspended its overseas study programs in Israel in 2002 in keeping with a policy that requires the university to withdraw from programs in countries under State Department travel warnings.

Sideli said the Safety and Responsibility Committee of the IU Overseas Study Advisory Council made an exception to this policy and authorized reinstatement of the Tel Beth Shemesh program because there are signs that terrorist acts have decreased in Israel in the last year and special security provisions have been made to keep students away from areas that are potentially dangerous.

The program is to be led by Stephen Katz, an associate professor of Near Eastern languages and cultures. The class is intended to teach students about archeology and ancient Israel through a combination of hands-on training, evening lectures and preliminary readings. The students will be housed at a kibbutz.

"The Safety and Responsibility Committee concluded that with the added safety and security measures, students who are open to accepting this level of personal risk should be able to participate," Sideli said.

She noted that for the time being, a suspension remains in effect for the overseas study program at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Prior to 2002, students in IU's Jewish Studies Program at Bloomington were permitted to take a semester of classes at Hebrew University and receive direct credit toward an IU degree.

The suspension means that IU will not provide financial aid to students taking courses at Hebrew University, nor will it carry them in an "enrolled" status while they are overseas. However, for IU students who choose to take classes at Hebrew University despite the suspension, the courses they successfully complete can still be transferred to IU and count toward degree completion.

About 30 of IU's Jewish Studies students have enrolled in Israeli universities, including Hebrew University, since the State Department warning was posted. Two IU students were present in the Hebrew University cafeteria when it was bombed in 2002, but they escaped with no injuries.

Steven Weitzman, director of IU's Jewish Studies Program, said he is pleased that IU has restored the Tel Beth Shemesh Program.

"IU is doing an excellent job of balancing safety concerns with a desire to make study in Israel a possibility for students," Weitzman said.

Sideli said IU continues to monitor the situation closely and intends to re-establish formal ties with Hebrew University as soon as the State Department lifts its travel warning.