Promoting education, cultural and livelihood initiatives for Palestinians in Israel

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Meet Our Student… Natalie!

“Education is basically a weapon for me, which I will use in order to reach a better future

There are approximately 1.5 million Palestinian’s living in Israel today. That’s around 20 per cent of Israel’s population. Despite being indigenous in their land and citizens to the state, Palestinians often face widespread discrimination across many sectors of society. Education is one of these key areas.

There are several barriers faced by Palestinian students in Israel, from less government funding allocated to Palestinian primary school, to exclusion from  higher education scholarships which are usually reserved for those who have completed Israeli military service, which the Palestinian citizens are exempt from. There are no Arabic universities in Israel and all courses at Israeli universities are given in Hebrew or English; with access to Arabic textbooks an extreme rarity. Whilst most students are fluent in Hebrew, there is no extra support offered and this can be problematic for students.

The Galilee scholarship is offered to Palestinian students in Israel who are facing financial hardship, and is offered to 250 students every year.

Natalie is 23 years old and moved to Tel-Aviv from Kfar Yassif in order to study at Tel Aviv University. Natalie receives the Galilee scholarship and we spoke to her about her experiences as a student.

“I have felt disadvantaged as a Palestinian student in Israel for various reasons, initially the language was quite difficult, since we studied in a language that was not our mother-language, and it was sometimes harder for me to understand.”

As well as language, Arabic and Palestinian culture and history is often omitted from the curriculum. Whilst university is meant to be a time for learning and expressing oneself, Palestinian’s are not afforded these same opportunities.

The university rarely has any cultural events for us Palestinians (if there are any, they are not held by the university but by the Arab student committee in the university). It makes me feel even further away from home and my culture, and does not give us Palestinian students the opportunity to express ourselves or celebrate our culture together as a whole.”

Despite barriers, for Natalie, as for hundreds of other Palestinian students, education is the best tool at their disposal to improve their lives.

Education for me, is a basic thing that everyone needs. It helps me strengthen and build my personality, my independence, it allows me to discover and learn new things that I did not know about before. Education widens one’s knowledge, makes a person more aware of their surroundings, and even of their own capabilities. Education is basically a weapon for me, which I will use in order to reach a better future and and become a wiser, stronger, and brighter person.”

Natalie is now in her third year of studying Occupational Therapy. Natalie is fully independent and receives no financial support from family or the government. She has received the Galilee Foundation scholarship for the past two years and without Galilee’s support, Natalie would not have been able to continue studying.

For me, without the financial support of the scholarship programme it would have been almost impossible for me to continue my studies. It would have also been harder for me to maintain my grades and responsibilities towards the university, since I would have had to work more shifts at work and somehow work them within my already tight schedule.”

Whilst benefiting from the financial support offered, Natalie has also felt the impact of the training and the cultural activities and support offered by the programme.

“There were trips to cities like Yaffa, Nazareth, and Acre. In addition we visited some villages depopulated in the 1948 Palestinian exodus. We also learnt about the personal identity; how to be effective leaders and we read novels and discuss them together.

The programme is almost perfect, since it takes into regard that we are students and we need time to study and learn. All of the activities and sessions did not feel as if they were a heavy duty on me, but that they were something that I enjoyed to do and were comfortable. ”

The Galilee Foundation is proud to support students like Natalie overcome the obstacles to education that so many Palestinians in Israel face. As well as supporting students educationally, we support them as they embark on the beginning of their higher education lives, and watch them grow into the future of Palestine.

“The team and students in the scholarship programme are like a family to me. I felt that my personality has become stronger and I have learnt how to express myself freely. I feel like I belong to a supporting group, not only part of a scholarship programme. In addition, I now care more about researching and living my own culture- because the scholarship always encourages us to read, discover, learn, and love our self and our culture even more.”

For more information on how you can help support students like Natalie, please click here.