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February 16, 2023 5:33 pm

Study Abroad Trips to Israel Raise Awareness of Antisemitism, New Study Says


avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Student fellows chosen by the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) Geller International Fellowship visiting a community on Israel’s border. Photo: Israel on Campus Coalition.

Study abroad trips to Israel raise awareness of global antisemitism and promote appreciation for the Jewish people, according to a new study published by the Academic Engagement Network (AEN).

The study, written by experts from the University of Arkansas the Heritage Foundation was  based on a quantitative analysis of data reported by 22 educators and students who were randomly selected to study abroad in Israel. A control group comprising thirteen educators and eleven students stayed behind.

“Those who attended the trip were 37 and 24 percentage points more likely to see antisemitism as a ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ big problem in Western Europe and Eastern Europe,” the study said. “Moreover, those who attend the trip were 21 percentages points more likely to believe that antisemitism is ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ big problem in the Middle East and North Africa.”

The study also found that participants increased their knowledge about Israeli society, with 20 percent being likelier to agree that “Israel was established as a refuge for persecuted Jews” and 48 percent likelier to “recognize Israel as a world center of high-tech innovation.” Another 48 percent were likelier to agree that Israel “strongly upholds liberal principles.”

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“During some components of the trip, the educators and students interacted with Israelis, businessmen, and those involved in tech, education, and the military,” co-author Mattie Harris told The Algemeiner on Wednesday. “Those are interactions that forge much deeper impressions than what one normally receives by reading or watching the news.”

Harris added that the quantitative component of the study gives it more weight than a traditional question and answer survey, explaining that “instead of just doing averages we regressed our outcomes.” A qualitative analysis of the data is forthcoming.

Not all study abroad programming in Israel yields similar outcomes, she continued.

Some, sponsored by anti-Israel groups, use the experience to depict a one-sided narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, exposing students Palestinian refugee camps throughout the West Bank but not thriving Arab Israelis in Tel Aviv. Such trips aim to portray Israel as an “apartheid” state, prompting their participants to leave with negative impressions of Israel. Because of this, more research on the “generalizability” of the study’s data is required.

“Unanswered questions aside, our research provides evidence that study abroad trips to Israel help students recognize the magnitude of antisemitism and gain a fuller understanding of Israeli society,” the study concluded. “With antisemitism lingering in many parts of the world, the provision of study abroad opportunities to college students and other adults may help address misperceptions about Israel and foster more positive attitudes towards Jews.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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