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University reopens suspended Jerusalem program

Emma Driscoll | Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Nine years after the University suspended its study abroad program in Jerusalem eight to ten students will once again have the opportunity to live and study in the city.

The Office of International Studies (OIS) is offering a Jerusalem Summer Program for summer 2009.

“I’m really grateful that we have the opportunity to send students there because there’s just really nothing quite like it. … Talking to people there is an experience that you can’t duplicate here on campus,” said Liz Murdock LaFortune, Assistant Director of OIS and Program Coordinator for the Jerusalem Summer Program.

In the past, the Jerusalem Program was offered as a spring semester program until 2000, LaFortune said.

The program was suspended in November 2000 during the time of the beginning of the Second (or al-Aqsa) Infitada and the “general violence in the area” associated with the Intifada, LaFortune said.

The State Department issued a warning regarding travel in the area at the time.

“One was planned for Spring 2001. At that point, the decision was made to suspend the program,” Lafortune said. “A lot of people weighed in on that, including people on the ground in Jerusalem.”

LaFortune said students have continued to express interest in the program since it was suspended.

Although the State Department warning still exists today, LaFortune said violence has decreased in the area and the program’s structure will enable the University to take steps to protect students.

The summer program will be a lot more structured in order to minimize risk to students, LaFortune said.

The program, which is run by people employed by the University, is located at the Ecumenical Institute for Theological Studies at Tantur, which is on the road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, LaFortune said.

“Students will live with the Tantur community and take meals with them and be part of the daily prayer,” LaFortune said.

According to Tantur’s Web site, it was purchased by the Vatican after the Second Vatican Council and leased to Notre Dame for fifty years, according to the Web site. The Institute was opened in 1971, according to the Web site.

OIS has been working with the University for several years to consider plans for a Jerusalem Program.

“We’ve actually been in discussions with various people at the University for at least the last two years,” LaFortune.

She said the Office of International Studies has worked with both the General Counsel’s Office and Risk Management.

The Board of Trustees gave the final approval for the Jerusalem Summer Program last spring, LaFortune said. However, the Program is subject to cancellation if there are any changes in security.

The six-week program will include required travel because a lot of learning will take place on-site, LaFortune said. Students may have the opportunity to travel to Galilee, Haifa, Jericho, Beer-Sheba, Acre and other archaeological and religious sites in Israel and the other Occupied Palestinian Territories, according to LaFortune. The Faculty Director and On-Site Director will go with students on these trips.

The students in the program will take the same six credit hours and be required to take basic introductory courses in both Arabic and Hebrew, LaFortune said. The language courses are integral to students’ experiences with the program.

“[The courses are an] important part of the program, to be able to experience Israel as well as the West Bank. … Language goes a long way toward that,” LaFortune said.

In addition to language courses, students will also take Middle Eastern History, Religion and Culture; International Relations and the Arab/Israel Conflict; and Holy Land Geography and Archaeology, according to LaFortune.

“Living and studying in Jerusalem provides students with a unique opportunity to better understand the Bible, Middle Eastern history, and the religious, social and political situation of the Palestinians and Israelis in the Holy Land through distinctive course offerings and daily experiences,” LaFortune said. “Simply stated, there is no other location that offers the options and resources that are available to University of Notre Dame students in Jerusalem.”

The deadline to apply for the Jerusalem Summer Program is November 15, 2008.