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In response to Israel's declaration of war, Penn has decided to suspend all University-affiliated travel to Israel and Palestine.

Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi

This story is developing and will continue to be updated.

Penn announced it will defer all University-affiliated travel to Israel and Palestine for the foreseeable future after war broke out between Hamas and Israel. 

In an email from President Liz Magill and Provost John Jackson Jr. sent to the Penn community Tuesday afternoon, the administrators said they were "devastated by the horrific assault on Israel" by Hamas, a militant group that governs the Gaza Strip and which is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States Department of State. 

"These abhorrent attacks have resulted in the tragic loss of life and escalating violence and unrest in the region," the administrators wrote. "Many members of our community are hurting right now. Our thoughts are especially with those grieving the loss of loved ones or facing grave uncertainty about the safety of their families and friends."

The administrators wrote that Penn Global has deferred all University-affiliated travel to Israel and Palestine "until further notice" and plans to remain in contact with all Penn students who are currently studying or visiting Israel. Penn Global did not respond to a request for comment by publication about the status of students who may currently be in Israel.

"The University continues to focus first and foremost on supporting the Penn community — both abroad and on campus," Magill and Jackson wrote, thanking University leaders who have offered "assistance and resources" to students, faculty, and staff with ties to the region. 

The only current Penn-affiliated group trip to Israel is an undergraduate study abroad program at Tel Aviv University in Israel this fall, Associate Vice Provost for Global Initiatives Amy Gadsden wrote to The Daily Pennsylvanian. Gadsden said the attacks began while TAU was on break, and the Penn student participating in the fall program was not in Israel at the time.

Gadsden added that Penn Global was in contact with the student about joining TAU programming and courses virtually "as we wait to see how the situation unfolds." Penn Global has also contacted and offered assistance to "individual travelers that are in Israel on a Penn-affiliated trip" as well as some community members on personal visits to Israel, Gadsden wrote.

"Our primary goal, as always, is to ensure the health and safety of all Penn students abroad, and to do our best to make every effort to preserve students’ academic programs whether in person or virtually," Gadsden wrote.

Three semester abroad programs affiliated with Penn are scheduled to take place in Israel this spring, according to the Penn Global website, as well as a Global Research and Internship Program opportunity in the country next summer. There are no upcoming Penn-affiliated programs in Palestine, according to the Penn Global website.

The announcement comes several days after Hamas militants launched a surprise attack on Israel on Saturday morning — killing over 1,000 Israelis. Hamas has also taken at least 150 Israeli hostages. On Sunday, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that the country is “embarking on a long and difficult war" and responded with airstrikes on Gaza. 

Palestinian authorities have reported a death toll of at least 900 people in Gaza. Nearly 2,000 people across both regions have been killed, and thousands more have reportedly been wounded. 

Following over a decade of an air, sea and land blockade of Gaza by Israel that restricted the movement of a population of over two million Palestinians, this escalation represents the largest instance of violence in the region's recent history.

In response to the war, Penn Hillel held a vigil in support of Israel at the LOVE Statue today at noon, where hundreds of students and community members gathered to honor the lives lost in the conflict.

The Penn Arab Student Society plans to host a "night of reflection, community, and conversation" at 9 p.m. on Tuesday in Houston Hall, mourning "the lives lost in Gaza and across occupied Palestine."

"Penn is a global community with a long history of being a place for people from all backgrounds," Magill and Jackson wrote. "In moments like these, we are strengthened by our connections to one another and to this community — no one is alone. Please take care of yourselves and each other during this challenging time."

Other campus leaders and administrators – including Wharton Dean Erika James and Engineering Dean Vikay Kumar – also commented on the ongoing events. James condemned Hamas in her message to the Wharton community.

“Wharton unequivocally condemns the atrocious assault against Israel and declares our solidarity in the wake of such violence,” James wrote."

Kumar sent a message to Engineering students following the Penn Hillel vigil, emphasizing the University’s efforts to provide support services for the community both at Penn and abroad in Israel.

Similarly, Jerome Fisher Program in Management & Technology Director Gad Allon reached out to M&T students and noted that he had family and friends in Israel. He said the ongoing events "underscore the imperative of unity, understanding, and support.”

Campus resources

Penn’s HELP Line: 215-898-HELP (available 24/7)
International Student and Scholar Services: 215-898-4661
Student Health and Counseling: 215-746-9355
Student Health Service: 215-746-3535
Student Intervention Services: 215-898-6081
Office of the Chaplain: 215-898-8456
Weingarten Learning Resources Center: 215-573-9235
Special Services (within Division of Public Safety): 215-898-6600
Employee Assistance Program: 866-799-2329