Penn State Students Leave Israel Early

By Christian Heilman

Published 07/24 2014 06:13PM

Updated 07/24 2014 06:16PM

ALTOONA, BLAIR COUNTY -- After a two day hiatus, US airlines are cleared to take off and resume service to Israel.
The FAA banned US airlines from flying into Tel Aviv after a Hamas rocket broke through Israel's missile defense system known as the "iron dome."
Officials say Israel is taking adequate steps to make flying safe for travelers.
To ensure its safety, one Penn State group currently in Israel is being evacuated from the area.
19 Penn State students and 8 faculty and staff members were there on an archeological dig north of Tel Aviv. They say the students were in a safe location, but they were asked to leave by their trip provider.
The students and faculty were set to be at their dig site from June 27 until this Friday, but their plans were cut short a couple days after the latest round of violence in the Middle East.
Lisa Powers, director of communications at Penn State, said "We were advised by the trip providers that we should probably evacuate our folks simply because there may not be any other means of transportation by Friday."
The 27 on this trip were about 80 miles north of the Ben Gurion Airport. That's where the FAA temporarily banned US flights after a missile hit close to the airport. That triggered Penn State to evacuate.
Barbara Rowe, executive director for education abroad, said "We partner with an organization that handles evacuations and one of their triggers was a missile getting through the Iron Dome close to the airport."
The group left their archeological site Thursday and traveled 150 miles by bus to the international airport in Amman, Jordan. They're now all on their way home to the US.
Powers said, "Even though these folks were not in any danger and certainly were not in a zone that is unsafe, it just became apparent that things could change at any minute."
The trip might have been cut short, but the university doesn't plan to cut any future trips to Israel.
Rowe said, "We will consider trips on a case by case basis because there has always been a travel warning for Israel."
This isn't the first time Penn State has pulled students out from international programs. They evacuated from Egypt in 2011 and from Japan after the tsunami the same year.
You can read a blog with entries from someone on this trip by visiting Research Matters.

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