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Israeli athlete leaves UNM amid safety concerns following antisemitic campus protests

(Photo: Screenshot)

An Israeli athlete was forced to leave the University of New Mexico this week and return to Israel due to safety concerns over rising antisemitism and recent anti-Israel campus protests.

UNM officials informed Gal Arad they were concerned for his safety and went so far as to purchase a plane ticket for the star athlete and third-year computer science student. 

Arad, who set the second-best time in Israeli history of 20.62 seconds for the 200-meter dash this year, was one of the top athletes on the UNM sprinting team. 

UNM Vice President and Director of Athletics Eddie Nuñez told media outlets that Arad himself initiated the decision to leave.

"Mr. Arad asked to be sent home as soon as possible, as he did not feel safe being here," Nuñez said. He emphasized that the university did not force Arad to leave, stating, "At no point did we choose to send him home."

Safety concerns began on April 22, when an anti-Israel encampment was set up on the UNM campus. The situation escalated on April 29, when anti-Israel protesters took over the UNM Student Union building. 

Police eventually removed the encampment on May 15, but many Jewish students remained concerned for their safety due to the ongoing hostile atmosphere.

As multiple university campuses across the globe continue to experience anti-Israel demonstrations, Israel's oldest university, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, is offering students a safe place to study.

Uri Sivan, president of the Technion in Haifa, told reporters it was his responsibility "to protect Jewish and Israeli students and professors abroad who fear going to campus."

"We extend a warm welcome to individuals worldwide seeking refuge within Israel's borders, offering safety and support to those who may feel persecuted elsewhere," said Sivan. "Our academic community remains open to those seeking safety and security."

This is the second time the Technion president extended the offer to Jewish students and faculty.

The institute initially offered a safe haven to students following the appearances by Ivy League college presidents before Congress, during which University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) President Liz Magill, Harvard President Dr. Claudine Gay, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) President Sally Kornbluth were unwilling to say that students "calling for the genocide of Jews" violated the free speech codes on their campuses.

"Given the feeble responses of quite a few presidents of leading universities… many Jewish and Israeli students and researchers currently face physical and verbal threats that cause them to think twice about everything they do and prevent them from participating in academic activities in those institutions," Sivan said after the congressional hearings.

"As a result of this situation and given the Technion's important role in the history of the Jewish people during the last 100 years, we have announced a program for the rapid integration of students and faculty members from around the world looking for an academic refuge during these difficult times."

The Technion is reiterating the invitation amid cries of "Long live the intifada" on college campuses, where Jewish students are targets of threats and violence by pro-Palestinian demonstrators.

According to Talia Khan, president of the MIT-Israel Alliance, Sivan's invitation has quickly circulated across the MIT campus. Khan posted on social media that she expected students and teachers to accept the offer.

UPenn, which once held a 40% Jewish enrollment, now has only 16% Jewish students.

"I know hundreds of students (Jewish and not) who have left their campuses out of fear," UPenn senior Eyal Yakoby told DV Journal.

Yakoby is one of two Jewish students suing UPenn on claims that its faculty conducted "deliberate and targeted harassment" of Jewish students.

Harvard's Jewish student population has also plummeted from 25% to 14%, with just 10% identifying as "Jewish by religion."

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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