In the wake of heightened Israeli-Palestinian tensions and a surge of violence in Israel last month, some Jewish Ohio State students are remaining resolute but cautious about upcoming plans to travel to Israel.
Every year, dozens of Ohio State students voyage to the Holy Land on trips often funded by Jewish organizations.
Susannah Sagan, associate director of the OSU Hillel, a university religious engagement group, said she expects 40 to 70 students to make the trip this season, a projection that has not changed since the string of attacks began.
“Obviously there’s a period of unrest right now,” said Annie Gordon, a second-year in psychology. “Likely it’s just going to diffuse in a few months back to the semi-tense state it’s always in. Or if it keeps escalating, it’s obviously not an opportune time to pack my bags and head over there.”
Gordon first traveled to Israel during her sophomore year of high school.
“We’ve learned about this country since we were in preschool, and so 14 years of Jewish education sort of culminates when you go there,” she said.
Gordon said she plans to return next summer with a group from OSU. However, she said she would hesitate to make the trek if current tensions escalate.
Nine Israelis have been killed by Palestinians and 72 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces since Oct. 1, according to Al Jazeera.
This uptick in violence has been fueled in part by tensions over a Jerusalem holy site revered by both sides.
Over the past few weeks, Israelis have been targeted in attacks where they’ve been “run over, stabbed or even hacked to death,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a press conference on Oct. 20.
Noa Bauer is the vice president of international marketing for Taglit-Birthright Israel, a major facilitator of Jewish heritage trips that expects 16,000 young-adult travelers this winter.
Coordinating with various Israeli defense agencies, Birthright Israel collaborates with local officials to “assess the prevailing situation and make the necessary adjustments,” Bauer said in an email.
“The safety and well-being of the Birthright Israel participants is our primary operating principle and our foremost concern,” Bauer said.
Ricky Mulvey, a second-year in international business and political science, interned in Israel this summer. He said that while he believes current travelers should take extra caution while visiting at this time, he would not hesitate to return now.
“Israel has very rarely had a time of peace since 1948, since (the country) started,” Mulvey said. “If you’re going to plan your travel to Israel around this dispute, this conflict – you’re never going to end up going there.”