Study Abroad in Israel 2010

Seth Ward


This document discusses details presented in an informal meeting with students on January 20, 2010.  Some items are further elaborated based on discussions at or following the meetinig. Please review this document carefully and contact me with any further questions, corrections or comments. A brochure about the course is 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 summer term 2010; 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. 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 300-500 words is required before we depart, and a short paper or project after we return for full academic credit.


Payments: $1300 is due February 1, $1200 each March 1 and April 1, made by check, credit card or cash at the campus Study Abroad Center. 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 The 2010 proposal will be similar but will not be available until shortly before we depart. Expect to visit Jerusalem, Haifa, Tel Aviv, Galilee churches, Hadassah Hospital, 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.


Date: (as of January 21). The earliest date we could leave is May 9 (arriving in Israel May 10). The latest date is one week later. The “official” part of the course would conclude on a Sunday evening, 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.


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. Other info if relevant: all relevant nationalities; place of birth and passport issuance if outside the US. Ideal: send a scan of the page with the photo and identifying information.


Visa: No advance visa necessary for Israel for those traveling on US passports. For those wishing to go to Jordan and/or Egypt: Visa needs to be purchased. This will probably be done as a group for those interested in Petra and/or Mt. Sinai during the third week of the program. Talk to Study Abroad if you plan to be in Israel for an extended period to study. Talk to me if you have any concerns, I will review them with the Israeli consulate and foreign ministry if 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).


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 by February 10. Pleae let me know if you will be applying but have not met the deadline.


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.


Application Budget:

Study Abroad Fee




International Travel-Airfare




Groundplan: Meals, transportation, lodging, program


21 days


Daily breakdown
















 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 $5000 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 $850 for meals, transportation, lodging and 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.


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.




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 3.6 and 4.5 to US$1.00. (You can check this by  a computer search keywords Exchange Rate Shekel). 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’s checks.


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. Sometims 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. Tell your bank you are going to Israel and find out all you can about charges, commissions and fees for foreign ATM withdrawals and purchases, conversion rates. Your bank (or the Israeli bank!) may treat a merchant purchase as a cash advance, meaning it charges high interest rates from date of purchase (although my experience was that even my Israeli ATM credit card withdrawals were generally treated as purchases rather than cash advances). Nevertheless, in many cases, commisions 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; these will be converted to shekels to charge to your card; when you see the statement you may find that converting to shekels and back to dollars added 3%-5% or even more.


Important: let your bank(s) know you will be travelling so they do not suspect fraud.




Cellphone: You will not need to have a cellphone but please note: US Mobiles: Check with your cellphone provider—you might have service on your US cellphone in Israel. If you do, expect it to be extremely 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. You ought to bring the cellphone with you, but keep it turned off except for emergencies.  Israeli Mobiles: You can rent or purchase Israeli cellphones in advance, or in the airport if you wish. (A purchase may be less expensive than a rental of two weeks or more). 


I will have an Israel mobile: 011-972-50-580-1265. I will also have a US mobile 303 981 7561 and will check messages occasionally.


Other communications: 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. If you get a cellphone, REBTEL may connect you to US phones from Israel for a local call, or allow those in the US to contact you. Please discourage family and friends from contacting you excessively during “class time” (which is most of the time in this course).


Other details


Travel Arrangements: Study Abroad will 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 of $250 plus the difference in ticket cost if any. A surchage 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 knowing Hebrew characters will be extremely helpful. Most Israelis you will encounter know English. 


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. Be prepared for religious locations where somewhat modest clothing might be necessary: a cheap wraparound skirt, a kerchief over the hair (or doubling as a skirt). In one or two locations, long pants or ankle-length skirts and covered arms may be required. 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. Do not expect to encounter laundromats although some students went to one in Tel Aviv last summer; sink-washing works fine. 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—bring a swimsuit or be prepared to buy one. Pack light!


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 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, and your transformer needs to be rated for enough amps to operate the device. 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 both the “Israel” adapter ($7.00 last time I checked) and the “Europe” ($4.00) although a few are set up so you need one or the other, or have  some other socket. 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. 


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 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).


Medicine: If you have prescriptions or medical situations that warrant it, please bring a copy of the prescription or the bottles with the prescription on it, and prepare a brief statement in case of emegency. For most students this will be unnecessary but if you believe this applies to you 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 even for common products, local brand and generic names will be different, e.g. Tylenol (acetaminophen) is called paracetamol.