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April 15, 2002

Despite hardships and danger, UCSC student doesn't want to leave Israel

By Louise Donahue

Living in Jerusalem, UCSC student Lindsey Rosenthal takes precautions to avoid suicide bombings and often hears gunfire and ambulances in the nearby West Bank city of Ramallah. Her family and friends want her to come home--and so does the University of California--but she's determined to stay.

"I think it's important to show my solidarity with Israel by staying."

--Lindsey Rosenthal

"I'm glad to be here," said Rosenthal, who lives with her Norwegian roommate 15 minutes from downtown. "I think it's important to show my solidarity with Israel by staying. Being an American, people appreciate that I'm here."

A student in UC's Education Abroad Program at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Rosenthal finds herself studying politics and history in a place steeped in both. One of her courses is an honors seminar on the Arab-Israeli conflict. "We talk about politics all the time," she said in an interview before Friday's suicide bombing at a Jerusalem bus stop.

The University of California, at a systemwide level, has recalled its students studying abroad in Israel, but Rosenthal plans to withdraw temporarily from UCSC so she can stay in Israel, then reapply. "I'm kind of upset" about the university's decision, she said. While noting the university's concerns about liability, she added, "I am 21." She knows other American and Canadian students whose universities are allowing them to remain without penalty.

Describing Jerusalem as "tense," Rosenthal said the situation has grown steadily worse since she arrived in August. She has been to Israel several times, and one of her brothers even had his bar mitzvah there. "It's never been like this when I've been here before. We don't go out very much. There aren't large crowds of people. You have to watch where you're going. It's very different from Santa Cruz."

The bloodshed has taken its toll on Israel. "I think there's a general depression over the entire country," she said. With suicide bombings and the authorities knocking on military reservists' doors in the middle of the night to call them up for active duty, "your life is politics," Rosenthal said. The situation is not so grim in some other parts of Israel, however. Rosenthal visited Tel Aviv over the weekend and said it offered a pleasant break from the violence.

Despite all the problems, Rosenthal has discovered a real sense of community. "There's a depth of character I haven't found in America. Being in an uncomfortable position, like I am, teaches you a lot."

She said she and her fellow students often talk about how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be resolved. Her own opinions have changed during her time in Israel. "I guess I was more liberal and thinking maybe we can work together," she recalled. Now, though, she sees that as impossible. "I think the sad reality is that there needs to be a separation. Let the Israelis take care of themselves and the Palestinians take care of themselves."

Reflecting on what she will take away from her time in Israel, Rosenthal said she has learned firsthand that "the whole world doesn't live like us. I think I've grown up in many ways."

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