Hebrew U takes in 12 US students fleeing Cairo upheaval

"They can certainly learn Middle Eastern studies here no less than they could in Cairo,” says administrative director of undergraduate studies.

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February 14, 2011 04:04
2 minute read.
Hebrew University 88

Hebrew University 88. (photo credit: )

Twelve students from overseas who fled the violence that gripped Cairo during the 18-day “January 25 revolution” have been greeted with open arms at their new place of study: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Jonathan Kaplan, administrative director at the Rothberg School’s division of undergraduate studies said the initiative to take in the 12 students had come from both sides of the ocean.

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“We work with many different universities in North America. Some of them reached out to us, and we reached out to some of them as well, telling them if they need assistance and have students who want to stay in the Middle East and continue their studies, we’re happy to help out,” he said.

Kaplan said the 12 students, who had been enrolled at Egyptian universities as part of study abroad programs at the University of California, Princeton University, Michigan State University and Allegheny University, will still be able to study Arabic, but will also benefit from other perspectives and study tracks that they had not originally intended.

“Jerusalem is a world center for Middle Eastern studies, and we have many experts on Islam and offer them Arabic, Palestinian and Islamic studies, plus a course in international relations. They can certainly learn Middle Eastern studies here no less than they could in Cairo,” Kaplan noted.

“We’ve been more flexible with them than with other studyabroad students because they chose to study in Cairo and never intended to study Hebrew, so we’re not forcing them to do so,” he went on, adding that the students “now have a unique chance to study both sides of the divide.”

Kaplan did add that the students, who started their studies on Sunday, would get a different orientation than they’d had in mind and would probably need some time to get used to their new surroundings.



“I know they’ve already felt that the prices are different here,” he said. “They’re surprised that they can drink the water out of the faucet here or that they can’t buy street food here for 15 cents, and they realize that they moved from a developing country to a technologically advanced and expensive one.”

Seven of the students arrived on campus a week ago, and five arrived Sunday. With classes starting Sunday and the search for dormitory and other housing still not complete for the Cairo 12, Kaplan said, “It’s been a really hectic day for all of us.”

Nonetheless, even if their new surroundings take some getting used to after the chaos and turmoil they saw in Cairo, the opportunity to continue studying in the region is not lost on the students, according to Kaplan.

“They realize that they are seeing history,” he explained. “True, things are somewhat in turmoil, but they are seeing important changes in the region”.

Nancy Kanach, director of the Office of International Programs at Princeton University, said Sunday, “We are grateful to the staff at the Hebrew University for being so responsive to our request to enroll two Princeton students at the Hebrew University, where the students can continue to study Arabic and Middle East issues at this important time in the region.”


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