Photo by Mark Philbrick
Thursday, July 31
Students will be returning to the Jerusalem Center today, Thursday, July 31 following an eleven day stay in Galilee. The situation in the Holy Land remains tense as both the fighting in Gaza and cease-fire talks continue. The ban issued by the FAA on flights by US airlines in and out of Ben Gurion International Airport (Tel Aviv) was lifted on July 24, less than 48 hours after being imposed and the airport is open, with regularly scheduled flights from the US and Europe arriving and departing. Jerusalem has been quiet, but tense, since the ground invasion of Gaza started.
Students have been asked to remain at the Center Friday and Friday evening. A further evaluation of out-of-Center travel will be made following Friday prayers at Jerusalem mosques, the first gathering at mosques since Ramadan ended. However, with the exception of Friday, the security situation in Jerusalem appears to be stable enough to warrant a return to out-of-Center travel regulations that were in place prior to the start of the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas. As such, it is expected that students will be allowed to travel in East Jerusalem and the Old City during daylight hours and that travel in West Jerusalem will be extended to mid-night. It is also expected that field trips between now and when the students conclude the semester and leave the Holy Land on August 14 will go forward as planned, but the Jerusalem Center Administration continues to monitor the situation and will update student travel and security restrictions as needed.
Tuesday, July 22
A rocket landed in a city next to Ben Gurion Airport southeast of Tel Aviv earlier today. As a consequence, Delta Airlines, American Airlines and US Airways diverted flights already en route to the airport to European cities and have announced a suspension of flights into Israel; none of the airlines have indicated a duration for their suspensions. The airport remains open and there are arrivals and departures by some other commercial carriers, although many European carriers have also temporarily suspended flights to Tel Aviv as well.
The US State Department also issued a more strongly worded travel warning for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza today. However, the Jerusalem Center’s own travel restrictions put in place two weeks ago at the outbreak of hostilities are stricter than those now recommended by the State Department, so we’ve not made further adjustments in permitted travel within the Holy Land.
The students left for a regularly scheduled stay in the Galilee early Monday morning, Jerusalem time and will remain in the Galilee until the end of July. The Galilee is quiet and without the turmoil that the conflict has created in Tel Aviv and areas to the south of Tel Aviv. The students stay in a tourist kibbutz on the east side of the Sea of Galilee that is away from populated areas and very secure. Planned field trips in the Galilee comply with the US State Department’s recommendations issued today, i.e., none of our planned field trips go to areas that the State Department has suggested that US citizens avoid.
At this point there does not appear to be a foreseeable or predictable end to the hostilities. While Hamas continues to send rockets into the Tel Aviv area, the number has been reduced and none have been sent toward Jerusalem since the Israeli military moved into Gaza. Indeed, because of the Israeli military’s movement into Gaza, the locus of the fighting and violence is primarily centered in Gaza and Israeli areas immediately adjoining Gaza. There is no possibility that the kind of violence seen on TV in Gaza and nearby can spread to other locations within Israel and, hence, Center personnel, including students, are safe and able to participate fully in scheduled curricular and co-curricular activities.