Study Abroad in Israel 2014

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 and much other information is available at 


Registration and Payments


Begin the process of registering by filling out the form here. In most cases, you will have already met with me; consider writing an essay of 200-250 words about why you want to participate in this program and how it fits into your overall education plan. Consider this as both a potential reminder about what is important to you, and a rough draft for scholarship applications. Even those who are not pursuing this for degree credit should write an essay if you feel that I do not know you well. Also, put your passport details here , or start the application process for your passport. Please scan the picture and details page of your passport and send me the image.


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.


Two weeks’ participation in the course is normally required for credit; most participants will want to stay overseas more time; I will sometimes call this the “optional third week.”


A reading exercise 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. We will work on the bibliography for the reading exercise. The short paper should be designed to show you have done some research about a location or issue; plan to present your paper or help guide students at the location during the Study Abroad trip


Payments:  A deposit of $1500 or more is needed as early as possible. Payments can be made by check or cash through Clayleen Rivord in the Religious Studies and Philosophy Office, in ROSS HALL, Room 122.  Please inform me also of any payments you make. 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 and Student Study Abroad Fee is through the regular registration and billing process.




A detailed itinerary proposal for the 2012 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 2014: We are planning to arrive in Israel between May 15 (leaving Denver International Airport May 14) and leave Israel Friday June 6. I will be in Israel until June 8 and can help those who may wish to stay longer. We will work with anyone who wants to participate but has other travel considerations, including participation in the UW archaeological dig in Huqoq.


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 date of leaving Israel.


Passport number: Please enter your Passport ID number and date of expiration, and nationality (U.S.A. or other) as requested. Please note additional citizenship if relevant. Please note that it is important that the details you enter match exactly with those in the passport you will use for travel: the exact names as given in passport(s), place of birth, Date of birth, place of issue of passport, date of issuance, date of expiry.


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 Scholarships: If you are in doubt, please consider applying anyway. If you have a 3.0 grade-point average, complete the application (available online from Study Abroad) and forward it to me. We apply as a group. You may consider applying even if you may not be not eligible. Click Cheney Scholarships to go to the website.


International Programs: is a great place to start seeking scholarships.


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.


Religious Studies: UW’s Department of Religious Studies usually has a small number of scholarships available. Application is open to all! Nevertheless, most recipients of these awards have been majors or minors in our Department—so now is the time to declare your Major in Religious Studies!


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


International Travel-Airfare (projected cost)





Groundplan: Meals, transportation, lodging, program



x14 days


Daily breakdown of $162/diem




















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





Groundplan: Jordan, Sinai, Eilat – third week add-on.





   Transportation, Visas/Border,  Admissions, Sinai, Eilat





   Admissions Jordan





   Transportation, Visas/Border,  Jordan





   Transportation, Eilat





    Lodging and other expenses, Eilat





Books, supplies, other meals, student insurance, student elective programming in Israel, international student fee, incidentals, tuition if applicable, etc.





Be sure to add your tuition!






Net Tuition costs vary according to the number of credits, scholarship support, and other factors. Note that a daily breakdown is included but these figures are projections based on overall cost of the program. US government rates for these items support a higher overall budgeted amount. 


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; we will work to provide documentation that you might need for such 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 short-term “bridge loan” 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 hadash, abbreviated 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 3.5 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: Images of the coins and bills and other interesting facts are at There may be new bills in circulation this summer (2014). 


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. Many merchants will not, though, and many will not even accept US travellers’ checks. (Most will accept credit cards, see below). Some participants have been very happy with prepaid international “travel cash” or “global money” cards. Expect to show your passport if you exchange cash and always be aware of exchange rates, fees and commissions.


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 should also 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, US credit and debit cards work in Israel, including Visa, Mastercard, American Express and most other cards. (Discover Card: check with Discover, which is known in Israel as Diners Club International). 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: call the 800 numbers on all your cards to let them know you will be travelling, so they do not suspect fraud, and be sure to ask them about using the card there: know the surcharges, commissions, conversion rates and fees for each card, for normal purchases, and for ATM use, including Cash Advance. You may find it best to have both a Debit Card for  ATMs and a Credit Card for purchases. Your bank (or the Israeli bank!) may treat a merchant purchase as a cash advance, with higher interest rates from date of purchase. (Or the reverse: an ATM credit card withdrawal might be treated as a purchase.) Nevertheless, in many cases, card fees, commissions and surcharges are cheaper than those incurred by purchasing Israeli currency with US dollars in cash or travellers’ checks.


EMV: Israel, like the US, lags behind Europe in conversion to the cards using electronic chips rather than magnetic stripes.


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 for both steps. All of this can add to the final cost.


Tipping: We will need to tip our Guide/Driver, allow for NIS 150-200 or more. Many restaurants add “Service” to the bill. If no service charge is added, 10-12% is typical. (Some tourists tip even if service is already charged in the bill).   




Cellphone: You will not need to have a cellphone although many students may bring one. 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 $2.99 /minute or more). Typically it is inexpensive to receive a text, say $.05, 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; do not expect to be able to do so in the airport. (BTW A purchase may be less expensive than a rental of two weeks or more). Your own 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 I will have a second Israeli mobile that may be in the hands of one of the participants as needed. 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, PINGER (, VIBER etc. – Many free apps 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: This year, participants will have to make their own air reservations. Please forward copies of air reservations once made. $1500 has already been deducted from the basic class fee. If the Study Abroad has to make these arrangements, there will be a surcharge to cover expenses and handling. If you are not leaving and returning to Denver International Airport, please let me know. Remember that after the ticket is issued any changes will incur a fee, usually $250 plus the difference in ticket cost if any. Our itinerary may have baggage limitations.  


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 tailored to individual needs and 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. Do not make sarcastic jokes to security personnel. 


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. Strictly speaking, you are in Israel as part of a degree program, but if the only choices are “business” or “pleasure,” “business” usually means specifically to earn money; you may respond that your visit is educational, not business. 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 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.


Weather: It does not rain in Israel from May through October although on rare occasions there might be ten minutes of rain or even longer once or twice over a summer in limited parts of the country. Typical temperatures May and June are 60s-low 80s. It can be humid, especially in Tel Aviv, and it will be warmer in the Jordan Valley (including Sea of Galilee) and in Eilat, and occasionally there is a hot breeze with sand blowing in from the desert. Bring or buy sunscreen especially if you are prone to sunburn.  


Clothing: Remember: you are “in class” and representing the University wherever you are, regardless of whether it is in a formal activity or your “free time.” Israelis are mostly very informal and casual, especially during the summer. In some places it might be a little chilly in the evenings, but only enough for a very light sweater or windbreaker. The only exception may be before dawn at the top of Mt. Sinai, where you may want a warmer sweater or coat, or to rent a blanket from one of the Bedouins (with US dollars). Footwear: Expect to do a lot of walking, including hiking up Masada and 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. You can buy whatever you forget to bring although clothing may either be of lesser quality or more expensive than in K-Mart. 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 (buildings, holy places, even certain neighborhoods) 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 for both men and women. 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. If you have multiple devices consider bringing a multiple USB port device or US three-in-one socket, as hotel rooms may have limited sockets and several participants may want to charge devices at once.


Food: Mostly there will be breakfast and one meal per day, sometimes two or more meals in addition to Breakfast. For persons with dietary restrictions or practices such as vegetarians, vegans, lactose intolerant etc. please note: Many restaurants and dining facilities in Israel are Kosher, which means that they do not serve products with dairy together with products containing meat. For the most part, items that are not obviously meat, poultry or dairy do not have any meat, poultry or dairy products; these items are called “Parev” or “Pareve.” Kosher Dairy restaurants will have no meat; Kosher meat restaurants will have no dairy, although there may be “imitation.”  Staff will always know about food composition. You should also make sure to ask if you have specific allergies such as nuts or peanuts etc.


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.


Get in shape: Although this Study Abroad is not particularly strenuous by Israeli standards, there will be hikes, much walking, and mountain climbing. The traditional Mt. Sinai is about 2500 feet elevation from base to summit; Masada is “only” about 1500 feet in elevation from the base. If you are out of shape, start an exercise training program now.


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.


Behavior: 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, even in your “free time.”



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 (gathered in 2010) 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.