A coalition of 31 American Jewish organizations is set to launch a three-year initiative, bringing Israel studies to American higher education.
“The average American college student who wants to study about Israel cannot,” said David Harris, executive director of the Israel on Campus Coalition. “Not even [a course on] comparative politics that includes Israel among other countries,” is offered.
According to a 2006 study, Israel Studies were found to be virtually nonexistent in US higher education. Some 53 percent of institutions surveyed didn’t offer a single course on Israel. The coalition noted that 24 percent of school offered one course on Israel and that there are only nine Israel Study centers of 4,000 higher education institutions.
Jewish organizations, including the American Jewish Committee, AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League and Hillel began implementing informal Israeli studies in American higher education.
There are to be various peer-to-peer programs, formed through Hillel. Through the Bina Initiative, students and faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill would have an opportunity to participate in a ten-week Israel studies program for small groups, “which has been shared in other parts of the country.”
The coalition also plans on working with students to mobilize advocacy for formal Israel studies programs on campuses.
“Nothing will get as much attention from university administrators or deans as students asking for it and campaigning for it,” Harris said.