NU student to stay in Israel despite violence

Becky Bowman

Mara Sheftel, Northwestern’s only study abroad student in Israel, said Sunday that she will remain in the country despite a recent rise in political violence there.

Administrators e-mailed Sheftel, a Weinberg junior, Thursday saying they would prefer, but not require, that she return to the United States from Jerusalem. The U.S. Department of State last week issued a travel warning urging citizens not to travel to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Sheftel said she was thankful NU left the decision up to her.

“NU has been so respectful to me,” Sheftel said. “I have been so impressed with them. I really can’t say that enough.”

Although the escalating violence has confined Sheftel and her friends to their dorm, it has helped rather than harmed her studies in political science, she said.

“It helps to explain what’s going on,” said Sheftel, an international studies major. “I don’t feel like my everyday life is in much danger.”

Conversation at the Rothberg International School, where Sheftel is studying on the Hebrew University campus, is focused on who will stay in the program and who will leave, she said. The 10-campus University of California system, which had the largest constituency at the school, brought its 27 students home last week.

Administrators at schools that have terminated their programs also have created stiff penalties for students who do not return to the United States, such as canceling credits, Sheftel said. A friend of Sheftel’s will need to reapply to attend the University of Wisconsin next fall because he did not return to school when his program was canceled, she said.

Some schools have given students the option to complete their Israeli courses from the United States via telephone and e-mail, but they will lose credit if they remain in the country, she said.

Although she said she understands why schools closed their program, Sheftel said that choice can be unfair to students.

“I’m really upset that (students are) having consequences for standing up for what they believe,” she said.

Sheftel’s family in the United States has worked with NU to keep in contact with her and supports her decision to stay, she said.

“If my parents told me that they wanted me to come home, I would be on a plane,” she said. “I’m here because I feel like it’s really important for me to be here right now. American Jews need to show their support for Israel now more than ever.”

The violence also is not a new concept for the students, who have dealt with its presence since the beginning of their program.

“My life here really hasn’t been like my life at home for a long time, at least since September,” she said. “We don’t go out to caf