Hillel Foundation to continue Israel trips
Wednesday September 19, 2001
The Hillel Foundation is encouraging students to apply for a 10-day trip to Israel this winter, despite safety concerns for students in the Middle East in light of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.
"Airport security is probably at the highest level ever, though there is still much uncertainty. I would not send my child on a trip over (to Israel). I've postponed my trip."
- Leila Hudson, associate director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Birthright Israel, the foundation that sponsors these trips for students across the country, has sent more than 22,000 students since its commencement a year and a half ago.
Hal Ossman, assistant director of the Hillel Foundation, 1245 E. Second St., said students should not be discouraged from applying for the trip as a result of the attacks.
"We recognize that the situation could change for the worse in Israel before the trip, and the decision to cancel can be made by Hillel or Birthright at any time," he said. "We don't visit any place that the Minister of Education (of Israel) would not send the schoolchildren of Israel."
El Al, the Israeli airline on which attendees will fly, has never been subjected to a terrorist attack.
However, Leila Hudson, associate director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, said she would still not be comfortable sending students to Israel.
"Airport security is probably at the highest level ever, though there is still much uncertainty," she said. "I would not send my child on a trip over (to Israel). I've postponed my trip."
Rabbi Michael Melchior, Israeli deputy minister of foreign affairs, and chairman of Birthright Israel, said in a conference call Thursday that the organization is extremely concerned about the safety of students.
"We will take all necessary precautions to ensure the safety of the Birthright participants," he said.
Melchior seemed to have a difficult time speaking about the program as a result of the attacks and expressed Israel's friendship and brotherhood to the United States.
"Deep, deep suffering is felt by the Israeli people," he said. "I'm worried about the sentiments, the hate which has come up from some Americans against the Arab people. I have seen this in Israel so many times after an attack. Please do not hate the Arabs. Hate is what takes the terrorists out of the image of God."
Michelle Blumenberg, director of the Hillel Foundation, said she is confident that attendees will be safe.
"Students who went on last year's Birthright trip had an amazing experience," Blumenberg said. "We are working to make this year's trip amazing and safe. Not one student has been injured in an attack during the previous trips."
Students interested in going on the trip must be Jewish, between the ages of 18 and 25 and have never visited Israel. Between 40 and 80 University of Arizona students will be chosen for the program, which visits traditional landmarks in Israel, as well as more modern cultural fixtures. The cost is covered completely by Birthright Israel, and the registration deadline is Oct. 16. Students can visit www.birthrightisrael.com for more information.