Many prominent universities around the country offer official study abroad programs in Israel. These include Harvard University, Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania, as well as other Big Ten schools like Penn State University, University of Wisconsin, Ohio State University, Indiana University and the University of Minnesota. Michigan State has recently expanded its program from the summer semester to the academic term in order to give more students the opportunity to study in Israel. Even graduate schools here at the University of Michigan offer such programs. For example, the Law School allows students to spend a semester at the University of Tel Aviv Law School. Yet the University of Michigan’s undergraduate program does not.

By not offering an “official” undergraduate program — in other words, one in which students can seamlessly enroll in an Israeli university knowing that their grades and credits will transfer when they return to Ann Arbor — the University of Michigan lags behind its rivals and its own graduate schools. This not only reflects poorly on the University on a comparative level, but also deprives students of a valuable learning opportunity.

Israel’s rich history offers countless unique academic and cultural opportunities, which can’t be found anywhere else in the world. As with any study abroad program, the destination offers many opportunities to enhance the learning experience outside the classroom. The state of Israel is known for its rich and diverse history. Israel is the birthplace of the three monotheist religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism. It was also an epicenter of the Greek and Roman empires and still has many remnants at archaeological sites around the country. Studying in Israel would allow students who are studying Hebrew or Arabic at the University to immerse themselves in a society where these languages are highly prevalent. A study abroad program would offer students a taste of the unique and lively culture of Israel. Given this, students should be able to study there with an official University study abroad program.

This University is no stranger to partnering with institutions in Israel for a wide variety of programs. In the area of life sciences, the University of Michigan/Israeli Universities Partnership for research has made significant developments in cancer studies at the Technion School of Medicine in Haifa, as well as in genomic ancestry of Jewish communities around the world at both Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University in Tel Aviv.

In 2008, Dr. Amnon Rosenthal, a University pediatric cardiologist noted in an article in the Detroit Jewish News that “[t]his sort of research between the University of Michigan and multiple academic institutions in Israel will be a mutually beneficial and rewarding under-taking of cooperation”. Research cooperation is undoubtedly a meaningful first step in fostering the relationship between the University and Israeli academia. But research isn’t enough. Given the strength of these pre-existing ties, offering an official study abroad program for undergraduates would be a logical next step for the University.

As sophomores here at the University, we are eagerly anticipating the prospects of studying abroad next winter. While we are currently able to study in Israel through other programs, we believe our experiences would be greatly enhanced if we participated in an official University program. Such a program would not only transfer our grades, but would also allow us to establish a Wolverine community in Israel. We believe this will also help the University strengthen its relationships with the various Israeli institutions that provide so many great opportunities.

We have created a petition to encourage the University to institute an official study abroad program. Please sign our petition at: https://www.msa.umich.edu/upetition/p/israelstudyabroad/. Every signature matters in our grassroots effort to create an official study abroad program in Israel. Help us show the Michigan Difference.

Beth Coplowitz is an LSA sophomore and Laura Rapoport is an LSA and School of Art and Design sophomore.

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