Israel-Gaza conflict relocates interim, TIME trips

The long-standing Israeli-Palestinian Conflict has once again come to a head, impacting the lives of not only those directly involved, but also citizens all over the world. St. Olaf trips into the region have been cancelled.

On the evening of Wednesday, Nov. 28, Eric Lund, director of International and Off-Campus Studies IOS, emailed students scheduled to take the Israel interim trip and students currently on Term in the Middle East TIME, writing that President Anderson had decided against St. Olaf trips entering the region.

Instead of completely cancelling the trips to Israel, students who were scheduled to take the Israel interim trip have the option to instead participate in a program traveling to Greece and Turkey, focusing on historical geography and the Bible. The program will be led by Professor Jim Hanson, who has led the Greece and Turkey trip before and was scheduled to lead the Israel experience.

In the time that Lund has been IOS director, St. Olaf has never cancelled an interim program. However, social instability and fighting in the Middle East have previously motivated the school to revise its study abroad plans.

“There have been times in the past when the Term in the Middle East was cancelled because of conflicts in that region,” Lund said.

A little more than a week ago, the simmering enmity beween Israel and Palestine dissolved into armed conflict, with Israeli forces bombing Palestinian-claimed territory and members of the Palestinian Islamist party Hamas launching rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory.

After a week-long exchange of fire, the violence ended in a cease-fire that was reached in part through the efforts of President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In a series of phone calls with President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, President Obama helped facilitate an agreement between the two sides that led to the eventual cease-fire while Clinton accomplished the necessary groundwork in the Middle East.

However, this agreement may not ensure the end of the violence between these two warring populations. This latest eruption is only one of many that have occurred over the course of the last century due to the ongoing dispute between Israel and Palestine over land ownership and civil rights.

The conflict began when the Israeli population claimed the land their people had occupied during biblical times as their own, thereby displacing the Palestinian population.

The Palestinians were subsequently forced from their homes into the Gaza strip on the southwestern border of Israel, as well as certain areas of the West Bank near Jerusalem.

Since then, the two populations have been in constant conflict about who deserves the land they both believe is rightfully theirs.

Because the dispute is ongoing and both sides continue to show skepticism about the effectiveness of the cease-fire, conditions throughout Israel will likely remain unstable in the foreseeable future.

Due to this political and social instability and its tendency towards armed conflict, tourism in this area could potentially be dangerous.

Conditions appear to be returning back to normal in the region after the signing of the cease-fire and Israeli and Palestinian citizens have begun the process of resuming their everyday lives.

However, the status quo remains unchanged. Areas both in Gaza and in central Israel have been reduced to rubble after eight days of attacks, and neither side of the conflict seems satisfied with the results of the accord.

While Washington seems confident that the cease-fire will bring relative peace to the area, this is by no means the first time that a peace accord between Israeli and Palestinian leaders has been attempted; most notably, the Camp David Accords of 1978 documented President Jimmy Carter’s successful peace negotiations with Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. In spite of this, the enmity between the two societies endures.

In the relative quiet after this barrage of violence and bloodshed, the world is waiting to see what happens next in this persistent, tumultuous conflict.

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