School Climate & Safety

Mideast Violence Leads U.S. Teachers, Students To Revise Travel Plans

By Michelle Galley — April 17, 2002 4 min read

The escalating violence in the Middle East has prompted U.S. students and teachers to reconsider, postpone, and, in some cases, cancel their plans for education-related field trips and study tours to the region.

Officials of several programs are rethinking or have called off professional-development study tours for K-12 teachers to the Middle East as the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has mounted. Several colleges also have recalled their students.

The U.S. Department of State, which recently urged American diplomats in the region to send their families back to the United States because of the “deteriorating security situation,” issued a travel warning last week recommending that Americans defer travel to Israel and the Palestinian-controlled territories.

“Ongoing violence has caused numerous civilian deaths and injuries, including to some American tourists,” the warning notes. “The potential for further terrorist acts remains high. The situation in Jerusalem, Gaza, and the West Bank remains extremely volatile with continuing terrorist attacks, confrontations, and clashes.”

Cancellations and Recalls

School officials at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union, in New Jersey, recently brought home a group of students who had been in Israel and have canceled plans to send other seniors to the region.

Late last fall, school administrators decided to go ahead and plan the popular trip even though the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City and outside Washington had raised concerns about student safety.

“That had an effect on people’s psychological readiness to send their kids overseas,” said Elaine Cohen, the head of the private Jewish school, which serves grades pre-K-12. Fewer children were signed up to take the trip this year as a result of those concerns, she said. The school, which is located on three campuses in Cranston and West Orange, N.J., has been sending students to study in Israel for more than 10 years.

Sixteen seniors from the school traveled to a kibbutz near the town of Ashkelon on Feb. 25. They were scheduled to stay at the farming community for 14 weeks; eight more students were going to join them earlier this month.

But with the recent wave of suicide bombings by Palestinians and the Israeli military incursion into Palestinian-governed cities on the West Bank, school officials decided to bring the students home. “It was with great sadness,” Ms. Cohen said, that the school made that decision at the end of March.

Even considering the increasing violence, some parents disagreed with the school officials’ decision, Ms. Cohen said. “They have a very deep commitment to Israel as being the foundation of Jewish education,” she said. “They wanted their kids there.”

The school was not alone in its decision to bring students back from the region.

Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, has canceled its study-abroad program in Egypt, the University of California system has pulled 27 students out of Israel, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison has indefinitely suspended its study-abroad program in Jerusalem, bringing four students back to the United States.

Summer Trip in Doubt

Teachers have been affected, too. Officials of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin this month canceled a monthlong trip for teachers to Cairo after several days of riots against the United States and Israel shook the Egyptian capital.

At the end of March, and in early April, Cairo police used tear gas and armored vehicles to break up crowds assembled at Cairo University and outside the Israeli Embassy, according to news reports.

“We tried to see if something was changing for the better,” said Abraham Marcus, an associate professor of history and Middle Eastern studies and the director of the center. He said he was disappointed that he had to cancel the trip when the situation had not improved.

Meanwhile, the fate of a summer study tour for precollegiate teachers to Israel and Poland is uncertain because of the conflict.

Forty-four teachers from the United States participate in the four-week trip about the Holocaust each year. It is sponsored by the Jewish Labor Committee, a New York City-based advocacy organization; the American Federation of Teachers; and the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, a New York City-based group that seeks to combat anti-Semitism.

This year, the teachers may not be able to travel. “We’ve never had to cancel before,” said Charlotte Wollheim, the assistant to the program’s director, though she added that program always has a contingency plan for security reasons.

For the Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union students, the visit to Israel coincided with the explosion of a car bomb in Jerusalem that killed eight people.

The students and the teacher who accompanied them regularly wrote journal items for the school. One entry, dated March 4, captured the group’s response to the car bombing.

“We all know we are safe here on the kibbutz,” they wrote. “We know that at any inkling of danger we will be whisked out of harm’s way. More than any other feeling, then, members of the group expressed frustration at what has been transpiring here recently. ... It seems like no matter what either side does, the violence continues.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the April 17, 2002 edition of Education Week as Mideast Violence Leads U.S. Teachers, Students To Revise Travel Plans


School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: What Did We Learn About Schooling Models This Year?
After a year of living with the pandemic, what schooling models might we turn to as we look ahead to improve the student learning experience? Could year-round schooling be one of them? What about online
School & District Management Webinar What's Ahead for Hybrid Learning: Putting Best Practices in Motion
It’s safe to say hybrid learning—a mix of in-person and remote instruction that evolved quickly during the pandemic—is probably here to stay in K-12 education to some extent. That is the case even though increasing
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Mathematics Webinar
Building Equitable Systems: Moving Math From Gatekeeper to Opportunity Gateway
The importance of disrupting traditional American math practices and adopting high-quality math curriculum continues to be essential for changing the trajectory of historically under-resourced schools. Building systems around high-quality math curriculum also is necessary to
Content provided by Partnership for L.A. Schools

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety What the Research Says Teens Are Driving COVID-19 Surges. Can Schools Counteract That?
Teenagers and young adults are now driving COVID-19 cases in some states, and experts say schools may be critical in preventing outbreaks.
4 min read
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Climate & Safety Opinion Empowering Teachers and Parents to Speak Up on School Safety
Rick Hess shares practical suggestions from Max Eden on how to ensure school discipline reforms are indeed keeping students and staff safe.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Climate & Safety Audio Driving the School Bus, Waiting for a Vaccine
A veteran bus driver holds out hope he won't get COVID-19 while awaiting his first vaccination.
3 min read
Eric Griffith, 55, poses for a portrait in front of a school bus in Jacksonville, Fla. on Thursday, March 18, 2021. Griffith, who has been a school bus driver for 20 years, delivered meals and educational materials during the first couple months of the coronavirus pandemic when schools shifted to remote learning.
Eric Griffith has been a bus driver for Duval County schools in Jacksonville, Fla., for 20 years. He's been driving students all year and hopes to get his coronavirus vaccine soon.
Charlotte Kesl for Education Week
School Climate & Safety When Toxic Positivity Seeps Into Schools, Here's What Educators Can Do
Papering over legitimate, negative feelings with phrases like "look on the bright side" can be harmful for teachers and students.
6 min read
Image shows the Mr. Yuck emoji with his tongue out in response to bubbles of positive sayings all around him.
Gina Tomko/Education Week + Ingram Publishing/Getty