Don’t Worry, Be Happy: Is Israel Safe for International Students?
The conflict between Israel and Palestine has been ongoing for decades, and has captured the attention of people across the world. Given that the conflict is one of the most significant geopolitical issues of our times, it is indeed natural to wonder if it is safe to attend university in Israel, especially as an international student. However, according to current students and alumni of Tel Aviv University the situation on the ground at Tel Aviv is in sharp contrast to what is shown on television screens worldwide. In this post we take a look at life in Tel Aviv from the lens of two Indian students, and examine whether students have any cause for concern in the city.
Should you be worried?
For Shardool Kulkarni, a current LLM student in Tel Aviv University’s Parasol Foundation for International Law program, it has been smooth sailing in Tel Aviv. “I came to Israel months after the incidents in May and June  took place, even then there was no fear or undercurrent of tension that I felt as a student. Obviously if you are a local and you are a stakeholder in that entire process, you will have very strong feelings about what is going on, and that’s completely understandable. But as an international student I don’t think it’s something you have to be worried about”, explains Shardool.
According to Pulkit Mogra, a TAU LLM alumnus, even as an international student the general environment in the city puts you at ease. “Every Israeli [citizen] from the age of 17 or 18 has to attend army training. That disciplines the whole population in such a way that when you are moving around the streets, you know you are moving around amongst an army population. [...] People are very, very, very friendly. If in the middle of the street you are stuck somewhere, you just have to raise your hand and you can ask anybody for help”, reassures Pulkit.
Both Pulkit and Shardool echo the sentiment that despite the geopolitical situation, Tel Aviv University is safe for international students, with Tel Aviv in particular being relatively insulated from any active conflict zones closer to the border with Palestine. In fact, Shardool encourages candidates to take advantage of being in Israel by making an effort to understand its rich history. He adds, “it’s not something that will come up in your day to day life as a student in a way that is uncomfortable or in a way that makes you feel unsafe.”
The International Law and Human Rights Track
While the citizens of Tel Aviv go on about their regular lives in an environment that is largely insulated from the conflict, being in the city as an international student has its own set of advantages. You are presented with a unique opportunity to experience the fields of international law and human rights law in a country with deep roots in these areas.
As Shardool, who is a part of the International Law & Human Rights track, succinctly states “International law is a part of people’s lives here [...] You get experiences from the ground, you [can] speak to people who have all kinds of personal and intimate connections with [the conflict] going on. Instead of studying the law at a level of abstraction or from a distance, you are actually getting to understand the law in context.”
The International Law & Human Rights track aims to “provide students with tools that will enable them to identify and explore the emerging global regulatory regimes in the fields of human rights and humanitarian law, environmental and cultural heritage protection, trade and investment regulation, and other fields.”
With courses being offered in topics ranging from climate change to labour rights to armed conflicts, this track provides students the opportunity to dive deeper into international law from global faculty such as Dr. Daphna Shraga from the United Nations, and Prof. Jeremy Perelman of SciencesPo Law School in the 2021-22 academic year.
Making the decision to study abroad is always tough, especially when considering aspects beyond the program, such as safety and the quality of life in a foreign country. Despite the conflict surrounding Israel and Palestine, Shardool and Pulkit’s experiences tell us that Tel Aviv University is situated in a safe environment where university life is sheltered from the war.
As Shardool identifies, perhaps studying amidst the Israel-Palestinian conflict can be considered a strength, as it provides you the opportunity to see international law in practice.
The last date to apply to Tel Aviv University's LLM program is 31 May 2022 - you can sign up for CollegeIt's Free Application Assistance program for applying to Tel Aviv University by sending an email to email@example.com.