The number of young East Jerusalem Palestinians wanting to study in Israeli universities is rising rapidly. As a result, the number of East Jerusalem residents registering for Israeli matriculation exams has risen by tens of percent, Education Ministry officials estimate.

Most Palestinians who take the Israeli exams, which are adjusted for the Israeli Arab students, do so after studying at one of the many private matriculation schools that have opened in East Jerusalem in recent years.

Israeli and Palestinian education experts say that while the change may stem from wanting a better job, or to avoid the roadblocks on the way to the Palestinian universities, the result is a deep transformation in Palestinian society's identity in East Jerusalem.

"The trend can be explained in one word - survival," said Dr. Asmahan Masry-Herzalla, a researcher of the Arab community at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies. "The blocks in the system are leading to 'Israelization.' The glass ceiling for Palestinians in Jerusalem is very low."

At least 10 private matriculation schools are operating in East Jerusalem, preparing scores of students for the Israeli exams, she said.

One of these schools is the Anta Ma'ana college in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. "Today we have 60 to 70 students, and we're growing," said college director Abed Abu Ramila. He said the students think the Israeli exams are easier than the Tawjihi, the Palestinian matriculation exam. "The Israeli system is more flexible and if you don't pass you can resit the exam. You don't get that with the Tawjihi," he said.

The transformation is seen by some as revolutionary. In September 1967, when Israel wanted to introduce the Israeli curriculum in East Jerusalem schools, Palestinian principals, teachers and parents vehemently refused. They launched a school strike that lasted two years, until Israel gave in and agreed to let the schools use a Jordanian curriculum. With the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in the 1990s, the schools switched to a Palestinian program and the Tawjihi.