Study Abroad in Israel 2012

Seth Ward


This document discusses details for UW Study Abroad in Israel; much of the information may be useful to anyone planning to travel to Israel. Please review this document carefully and contact me with any further questions, corrections or comments. A brochure about the course is at Links to nearly all the relevant documents are at


Registration and Payments


Begin the process of registering by sending me an essay of 200-250 words about why you want to participate in this program and how it fits into your overall education plan. Even those who are not pursuing this for degree credit should write an essay. The “default” registration is for RELI2040; this course meets several University Requirements such as CH and G. An alternative registration format (normally RELI4900) may be possible to meet various considerations. At the head of the essay, include your name, contact information, W number, registration request, passport number and expiry. If you do not have this information Soon after receipt of your essay, we’ll discuss registration and you will be able to register for RELI2040 or the appropriate section of RELI4900. 


Two weeks’ participation in the course is required; most participants will want to stay overseas more time; I will sometimes call this the “optional third week.” Some reading and a short paper of about 300-1000 words is required before we depart, and a longer paper or project after we return for full academic credit. The short paper should be designed to show you have done some research about a location or issue; you will be asked to present your paper or help guide students at the location during the Study Abroad trip


Payments: A down payment suitable for purchasing airline tickets is due by the end of February. A deposit of $500 or more is appreciated as early as possible. Payments can be made by check, credit card, cash or PayPal. I am recommending you deliver checks or payments to the Instructor, or inform me immediately of any payments made through All accounts should be paid in full by April 1. Please contact me if for any reason this is not possible; as may be the case for those seeking financial support. Payment of tuition is through the regular registration and billing process.




A detailed itinerary proposal for the 2009 course is available at This year’s proposal will be similar but will not be available until shortly before we depart. Expect to visit Jerusalem, Haifa, Tel Aviv, Galilee churches, the Negev desert, holy places to Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Bahai and Druze faiths, universities (I hope more than one with study exchange agreements with UW), and Yad Vashem during the “official two weeks” of the course. Expect to do some hiking, ride a camel, see museums, historic places, churches, mosques and synagogues, traditional markets, artist colonies, and “tourist traps.” I’ll give short formal lectures in some places, on the van, or before or after the day’s experiences. The program will be flexible enough to accommodate participants’ special interests, and we will organize additional touring for those staying on beyond two weeks, probably including Petra and Mount Sinai; other locations in Israel and Jordan have been discussed for this period.


DATES FOR MAY 2012: We are planning to arrive in Israel approximately May 15 (leaving Denver International Airport May14). The exact time and date may vary by 24 hours or so until transportation in ticketed. The “official” part of the course would conclude on a Monday evening or Tuesday morning, two weeks later; I anticipate many will stay an additional week and depart on a Sunday night a week after that. Please communicate with me about any considerations you may have about the precise date.


Course Content: We will be covering a curriculum of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, The State of Israel, and categories such as Middle East, Holocaust and a catch-all of “Other Themes,” which may include education in Israel, Hebrew and Arabic, Religious Studies, and much, much more. All participants are expected to prepare a “short paper” of about 2 pages, which they will either present formally while on the Study Abroad, or on the basis of which they will help lead us through one of the sites. Those seeking three credits will be expected to discuss a project with the Instructor and submit it by the end of the UW Summer Term (2012: August 3). A provisional web-page about course content is at


Passport and Paperwork


Passport: If you do not have one, apply for it now. It must be good for at least 6 months after return date.


Passport number: Please send Instructor your Passport ID number and date of expiration, and nationality if not U.S.A. Other info if relevant: all relevant nationalities or passports (if you hold more than one passport). We will need all your passport information: exact name is given in passport(s) you will be using, place of birth, Date of birth, place of issue of passport, date of issuance, date of expiry. Ideal: send a scan of the page with the photo and identifying information. It is ideal to scan the information page and send a copy to the instructor. Please download the form in the questionnaire or just the passport info and send it to the instructor:


Visa: No advance visa necessary for Israel for those traveling on US passports. For those traveling to Petra and Mt. Sinai, or wishing to go to Jordan and/or Egypt: Visa/Entry tax needs to be purchased. This will be done as a group for those interested in Petra and/or Mt. Sinai. Talk to me if you have any concerns, I will review them with the Israeli consulate and foreign ministry as needed.


UW Study Abroad Paperwork: You will need to complete and sign various forms and certify medical insurance (for most participants this will be by purchasing an ISIC card and/or required travel insurance).


Scholarships and Grants


Cheney Grants: If you are in doubt, please consider applying anyway. If you have a 3.0 gradepoint average, complete the application (available online from Study Abroad) and forward it to me. Please let me know if you will be applying but have not met the deadline. You should apply even if you are not eligible.


UW Colleges and departments: There are travel funds available through some departments and colleges. A&S has a research grant which is very competitive. Study Abroad/International Programs has a list and can help you search for funding. It may be worthwhile to question your RSOs, student government, Multicultural and diversity communities, Rotaries or Lions in your home town, churches or houses of worship and other such institutions. Students who have participated in this program in the past have received grants from International Studies (the academic department), Women’s Studies, the A&S College, and other sources.


International Programs has a website with more info: this is a great place to start.


Application Budget: You may find it convenient to have figures to use in applications in which separating out costs is required:


Study Abroad Fee





International Travel-Airfare





Groundplan: Meals, transportation, lodging, program



X  21 days


Daily breakdown of $162/diem




















   Program (admissions, visas, lecturers, tours etc.)





Tuition and UW Fees











For most persons who pay Wyoming tuition, you may use this template for a modest budget supporting an overall cost of $5500 including three credits. A daily breakdown is included. US government rates for these items support a higher overall budgeted amount. (I make no representation to the accuracy of UW tuition and fees).


The budget template suggests you apply for funding to stay overseas for three weeks, and allow for meals, transportation, lodging and incidental expenses additional to those included in the Study Abroad package. For reference, 2009 student experience was that the additional cost paid by students was closer to the $200-$300 range (not counting gifts and entertainment), but a lot is dependent on airfares and not-yet negotiated group tours. In any case you will have any further charges for lodging, admissions or tours during the two week “official” course, and will have on average two meals daily provided by the course (breakfast and either lunch or dinner) during that time.


For most other purposes, please consider the course fee as a single figure, much as a “lab fee” might be for some courses, rather than breaking it down into component parts. This is important for some financial aid and scholarship programs.


Financial Aid: Some students may be taking out student loans for summer term. For some plans, summer financial aid may be awarded but unavailable until after April 1. it may be necessary to take out a “bridge loan” for 30 days to make funds available.


General Information


There are a lot of websites with general info about traveling to Israel. Here’s one from one travel agency: Taglit Birthright has a lot of information as well, some of which is relevant only to Birthright but most applies to us as well:


If you have an iPod or similar device, there are (free) Apps such as Visit Israel that may be helpful.




Israel’s currency is called “New Israel Shekel” Hebrew: shekel hadashabbreviated NIS or NS (and ILS in some banking and financial contexts). It’s usually called “shekels” (Hebrew: shekel or plural shekalim). The symbol is . Expect the cost to fluctuate between NIS 3.6 and 4.5 to US$1.00. (You can check this by  a computer search keywords such as Exchange Rate Shekel or Exchange Dollar shekel, or go to the Bank of Israel website:


You can purchase shekels for dollars at the airport and at banks, or get shekels from ATMs. Some merchants and individuals will accept US currency. Some will not and will not even accept traveller’schecks. (Most will accept credit cards). Some participants have been very happy with prepaid international “travel cash” or “global money” cards. 


We will not do a lot of shopping and most of your basic expenses are covered; however, there will be occasions when you may need to pay local cash for meals. You may also want to make sure you keep some US dollars in cash—occasionally they come in handy, and may prevent ATM fees in US airports on the return trip.


ATM and Credit Cards: In general, your Mastercharge and Visa credit and debit cards will work in Israel.


Sometimes a merchant or ATM may not be able to process a card (as sometimes happens in the US) so if you have multiple cards you may want to bring them.


Important: Whatever ATM, Debit, or Credit cards you bring, let your bank(s) know you will be travelling to Israel so they do not suspect fraud. Also, find out all you can about charges, commissions and fees for foreign ATM withdrawals and purchases, conversion rates. And make sure they know your travel dates otherwise your card may be marked for fraud and your charge privileges stopped.


Your bank (or the Israeli bank!) may treat a merchant purchase as a cash advance, with higher interest rates from date of purchase. (My experience more often was the opposite: even my Israeli ATM credit card withdrawals were generally treated as purchases rather than cash advances). Nevertheless, in many cases, commissions and surcharges on credit cards are cheaper than those incurred by purchasing Israeli currency with US dollars in cash or travellers’ checks.


A final note: some tourist items or services may be denominated in dollars, but if you pay by credit or debit card, the dollar amount will be converted to shekels and your statement will show your bank converting back to dollars—with commissions or fees, all of this adds 3%-5% or even more.




Cellphone: You will not need to have a cellphone but please note:

US Mobiles: Check with your cellphone provider—you probably will have “international roaming service” on your US cellphone in Israel. If you do, expect it to be expensive; some plans may allow incoming but not outgoing voice calls or the reverse (at rates of $2/minute or more) and charge $.05 to receive a text message but $.50 to send.

Some providers have global packages that make it a lot less expensive. Bring your cellphone with you, but use it wisely. For devices with wireless, see below.

Israeli Mobiles: You can rent or purchase Israeli cellphones in advance. I do not believe you can do so in the airport at present. (A purchase may be less expensive than a rental of two weeks or more). Your cellphone provider may be able to provide you an Israeli cellphone or globalphone which can be adapted for either Israel or US use, as can companies such as


Please discourage family and friends from contacting you excessively during “class time” (which is most of the time in this course).


My contact info: I will have an Israel mobile: 50-580-1265 (To dial from the US, most providers have you dial 011-972-50-580-1265). I will also have a US mobile 303 981 7561 and will check messages occasionally. Please feel free to give out my Israeli cellphone to family members as an emergency contact.  


Other communications:

There are a lot of places with free wireless access so you will not be using expensive minutes to call or text.

SKYPE ( ) is a free computer program. There is no charge for “Skype to Skype” calls (voice or voice and video computer to computer), and “Skype-Out” (computer to telephone) is usually cheaper than any cellphone from Israel to the US.

REBTEL ( If you get a cellphone, may connect you to US phones from Israel for a local call, or allow those in the US to contact you. (this is not a wireless program—you will be charged minutes on your Israeli mobile phone.

TEXTFREE ( – A free app on your iPod or other device—free texting and inexpensive minutes.


Please share information about other programs of which you may be aware.


Other details


Travel Arrangements: Study Abroad will normally be making arrangements for your international travel, and these tickets are included in the $3700 Study Abroad payment. If you are not leaving and returning to Denver International Airport, please let me know. We will confirm your itinerary with you before issuing the ticket. After the ticket is issued any changes will incur a fee, usually $250 plus the difference in ticket cost if any. A surcharge may be incurred for individuals whose travel arrangements cost more than the typical amount or are more expensive due to late payments, or if ticket prices rise precipitously. 


Laramie Sessions: We will have a number of opportunities to gather or to attend various events. If you are participating in the travel course but not in Laramie, please consider a “self-directed field experience” (Contact me directly for some suggestions).


Readings:  I will develop a suggested reading list; including suggestions tailored to individual expectations.


Language: Hebrew and Arabic are official languages, and almost everything is also in English. Knowing Hebrew characters will be extremely helpful, as will Arabic characters. Most Israelis you will encounter know English.   


Israeli Security: Expect to be approached by security at airports, border crossings, at the Western Wall, and other locations. Many stores and malls, theatres and bus stations have security stations and metal detectors. At the airports and borders you will be asked various questions. You may be selected for additional discussions or for luggage search. Be pleasant and truthful; I will try to review some of the questions as best I can before we depart. Israel has a very good security record—better than US Homeland Security—despite numerous credible threats, so be patient and good natured.


It is good to know the name of your hotel at all times (keep a card from the hotel front desk!), and of course that you are in the country on an academic program of the University of Wyoming. It may be useful to have your WyoCard, and good to know the UW Study Abroad info, including my Israel contact information. Carry your personal I.D. and you should probably always keep your passport with you if you can keep it secure.   


Luggage:  We will be moving frequently. Pack light! If your luggage looks like a lot of other bags, you may want to put an easily distinguishable tag or piece of cloth or tape so you can identify it quickly. Some of our travels may be by public transportation. Expect the possibility that security will search your luggage.


Clothing: It does not rain in Israel from May through October. In some places it might be a little chilly in the evenings, but only enough for a very light sweater or windbreaker. Footwear: Expect to do a lot of walking, including hiking up Massada and for some of us the traditional Mt. Sinai (a hike from about 5000 to 7500 feet above sea level)—you’ll want comfortable shoes (and some of us may need to get into an exercise program)! You may want to have sneakers or sandals that can get wet in some locations. Beach: bring a swimsuit or be prepared to buy one. Most places you can wear whatever you want, but be prepared for a synagogue visit and for religious locations (see below).


Religious locations: Be prepared for religious locations where somewhat modest clothing might be necessary: a cheap wraparound skirt, a kerchief over the hair (or shoulders or doubling as a skirt). Many women kept kerchiefs for this purpose or bought cloths. In one or two locations, long pants or ankle-length skirts and covered arms may be required (covered legs and arms even for men). We should know each morning whether we will need it but we may find modest clothing is needed for unscheduled stops. A button-down shirt (white or light color) and slacks for men, a skirt for women, will be OK for a synagogue visit.


Laundry: Do not expect to encounter laundromats except in Tel Aviv; sink-washing works fine. I recommend bringing about 14-15 days’ worth of clothing.


Electricity: Israeli current is 220 volts/50 cycles as in Europe. Check any devices you bring which use electricity. In general, “electronic” devices have batteries and use “chargers” rated for 110-240 volts and 50-60 cycles, such as laptops and cellphones (check your device to make sure). A hairdryer, shaver or other “electric” device powered directly by a cord to a socket will need a transformer unless it has a 110/220 volt switch. Motors or fans in such devices may not work well with a transformer, and your transformer needs to be rated for enough amps to operate the device. (Do not rely on the hotels to have a socket for 110 volt devices although some may).  


Devices with chargers rated for 110/220 volts or items with voltage switches will do just fine, they will only need a plug adapter. There are pictures of some of these devices on line for example at Israeli sockets generally accept an “Israel” or “southern Europe” adapter ($4.00-$7.00) although a few are set up so you need one some other adapter. If you are unsure you can bring more complex devices for example (no recommendation of specific retailers implied here, and my recommendation is to travel as light as you can). If you cannot find them before you go, they can be purchased in the airport and in most cities in Israel, and I’ll bring a few extra and an “international adapter” kit that can handle all possible sockets.


Medicine: Please bring a complete supply of any prescriptions you use on a regular basis; talk to your pharmacy or MD to make sure you have an adequate supply. For most participants this will be unnecessary but if you believe this applies to you please be prepared: bring a copy of the prescription or the bottles with the prescription on it, and prepare a brief statement in case of emergency, please have your MD write this up, keep the original and make sure we have a copy or know where to get one. Israeli pharmacies have most supplies you expect to find in US pharmacies although local brand and generic names will be different, e.g. Tylenol (acetaminophen) is called paracetamol, and will be able to fill prescriptions although you may need to go to a clinic to have a local MD confirm the Prescription. Talk to me if you anticipate any problems.


Israel is a first world country. We will not spend a lot of time shopping, but you can buy just about anything you need or want. There are pharmacies, supermarkets, stores, etc. in all the major cities (although sometimes you may find the item you forgot to bring is more expensive in Israel than you thought it would be when you realized you left it behind!) There will generally be cellphone and wireless access throughout the country, although you could lose signal or may not be able to log on to the wireless or you may have to hunt for free wireless access, as is the case in the US.


You are representing the University and are part of a University academic course. You should act with the responsibility, respect and collegiality expected in the classroom at all times.



Safety, Social Media and So forth

Safety: Israelis live longer than Americans and generally have fewer deaths and serious injury due to non-medical reasons (including terror and war!) than is the case in the U.S. One set of statistics suggests that the rate in Wyoming is four times higher. These statistics should be approached with caution but are striking nonetheless.


The biggest safety issue is making sure the Instructor knows about issues such as medical concerns or food allergies, and protecting against sunstroke, sunburn, and heat exhaustion. Bring sunscreen and use it if and when you are prone to sunburns. Drink water and wear a hat when you are in the open sun.


Social Media: We have a Facebook page and a joint Weblog. If you are expert at using Facebook, Twitter, group blogs and so forth, please let me know.