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From the field

Israel prevents a Palestinian student from receiving medical training in East Jerusalem, January 2007

Rukaqyah al-Faqih, medical student

Rukaqyah Abd-a-Salam

I live in Qatanna village in Jerusalem . In 2002, I finished high school with honors and was accepted into medical school in Al-Quds University in Abu Dis and started my studies that same year. Every now and then there would be closures on the entrance to Jerusalem and military checkpoints on the way, but I was usually able to get from the village to Jerusalem and from there to Abu Dis. The ride usually took me no longer than 45 minutes and cost about 15 shekels round trip.

At the beginning of 2003, the Israelis tightened the closures around the city and the trip to the university via Jerusalem became impossible. I was forced to go to Ramallah every day and from there take another cab to Abu Dis. The trip became both longer and more expensive. Many times, especially when I had class at 8:00 in the morning, I would have to leave the house at 5:30 in the morning to make it on time. Despite that, I would still arrive late sometimes. The ride which previously cost me 15 shekels now costs me 35 shekels a day, and this is a burden on my family.

We are nine people in my family and my father is our sole provider. My education itself costs my parents a lot of money. I continue with it, however, in the hopes of finishing my degree and securing a job so I can assist my family financially. I want to make up to my family the financial distress I am causing them.

In 2005, a new problem arose. In the fourth year of studying, all medical students are sent for practical training to al-Makassed hospital or al-Mutalah (Augusta Victoria) hospital in east Jerusalem . I was referred to al Makassed hospital, but the Israeli authorities refused to grant me a magnetic card and a permit to Israeli for security reasons. I have never been a political activist, nor have I ever had any relation with a political organization.

I asked several lawyers for help with securing a magnetic ID card and a permit into Israel , but it didn't help. Twice I tried to enter Israel illegally, without a permit, but was caught by soldiers who held me more than half an hour then sent me home.

In order to not miss any studies, I was forced to look for alternative places to do my practical training. Finally, I was forced to undergo my training in Al-Ahli hospital and Alia in Hebron . Because of the distance between Qatanna and Hebron , I had to live in Hebron for 5 months, away from my family for the first time in my life. I felt mentally and emotionally exhausted and I had a hard time getting used to the situation, because most of my friends were undergoing their training in al-Makassed. Also, the quality of training I was getting in Hebron was lower than that my friends were receiving in al-Makassed because in Hebron there are fewer resources and the doctors from Abu-Dis University work in al-Makassed.

Also in my fifth year I did not receive a permit into Israel and was forced to live in Hebron . I am undergoing training in pediatrics and gynecology. Because the quality of training in these two fields is poor in Hebron and I cannot get to al-Makassed, I am considering moving to Jordan and undergoing my training in the Islamic hospital in Rabat Amon.

If I go to Jordan , the financial burden on my family will increase, and I will suffer from the separation from my family and friends. It is very frustrating that I cannot undergo my training in East Jerusalem , which is only 20 minutes away from my house. Al-Makassed hospital is only 4 kilometers away from Abu-Dis University and because of the Israeli authorities I am forced to undergo my training in Hebron .

Rukaqyah Mohammad Abd-a-Salam al-Faqih, 23, is a medical student and a resident of Qatanna village in Jerusalem. Her testimony was taken by Kareem Jubran at the witness' house on Jan. 2007.