An inaugural Middle East study-abroad program has not yet met its participant limit, though an Education Abroad administrator said the trip still will take place whether more students apply.
Sixteen students have applied to take part in OU's Journey to the Middle East program, though administrators had intended to allow up to 20 students to participate, Education Abroad director Alice Kloker said.
"We have a goal of running this program with 16 students, although the program is going to happen at this point regardless of how many end up committing," Kloker said.
The trip will take students to historic sites, such as the Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar of Istanbul, and the Temple of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, according to the program's itinerary.
It is not unusual for new study-abroad programs to face recruitment challenges in their first year, Kloker said.
"There is not a core of returned students on campus that can spread the word among their peers," Kloker said.
Kloker has not heard specific security concerns with the program addressed by prospective participants or parents, she said.
Though there is unrest in the Middle East, Israel generally is stable, OU Judaic and Israel Studies program director Norman Stillman.
"There certainly is danger and unrest in the surrounding countries, but Israel is actually an island of stability in the midst of that troubled region," he said.
Stillman lived in Israel in 2010 with his two grandchildren and never would have brought them if he felt it to be a danger to them, he said.
As for security at Hebrew University, where the program will conduct the Jerusalem segment of its classes, Stillman said security protocols include gated entry to the campus, guard stations and bag checks.
"One never feels unsafe," Stillman said.
Molly Oberstein is an OU student spending the semester at Hebrew University and said security concerns occur outside university grounds.
"I attended a music festival this weekend, which took place about 20 minutes away from the border with Gaza," Oberstein said in an email. "The event was originally set to be canceled due to the violence following Israel's killing of Palestinian militants Friday. Although the festival occurred anyway, it ended two hours early due to the threat of Katyusha rockets being fired from Gaza."
The areas closer to Israel's bordering countries are where the real threats lie, Oberstein said.
"As evidenced by the mandatory draft and the presence of bomb shelters in places such as my apartment, the realities of life here are very different from those in the U.S.," Oberstein said.