East Jerusalem Palestinian Says Israeli Hospital Denied Her Application to 'Jewish' Nursing Course

Woman says she tried to join course that combines nursing and Jewish religious studies but was turned down by hospital's secretary ■ Hospital refutes claim, says course is open to anyone who commits to it

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The Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.
The Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

A Palestinian woman says she was told by Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center that she could not apply to one of its nursing school programs because it is only open to Jewish applicants, a claim the hospital denies.

The woman, an East Jerusalem resident who wished to be identified in this article simply as N., told Haaretz that a secretary at the hospital’s nursing school program told her when she sought to apply that admission is open “only to those of the Jewish religion.”

Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.Credit: Emil Salman

The hospital’s standard nursing education track has both Jewish and Arab students, but it requires a prior academic degree, which N. does not have. An alternative track, which requires no such degree, combines nursing and Jewish studies.

For its part, the hospital administration told Haaretz that “any interested candidate who meets the academic admission requirements and commits to fulfill the complete program syllabus can be admitted.”

The combined program in Jewish religious studies and nursing is geared for Jewish women and administered in cooperation with the Jerusalem College of Technology’s Lev Academic Center. The Lev Academic Center is a public institution that is subject to the oversight of the Council for Higher Education.

The joint program includes a course that, according to its description, “imparts tools and knowledge relating to medical-halakha matters that are necessary in working in a nursing position on Shabbat and Jewish holidays.” Halakha is traditional Jewish religious law.

Another course in this nursing track is described as “Jewish thought from the nurse’s point of view that deals with developing the students’ personal stance with regard to matters of faith that the religious registered nurse deals with, with the goal of furthering the school graduate’s professional ability to counsel and support the patient and his family.”

Israeli law bars institutions of higher education or post-secondary education from discriminating against students or applicants for admission based on “their country of origin (or that of their parents), their community, socioeconomic background, religion, national background, gender or place of residence.”

About two weeks ago, N. and a friend of hers approached the school to find out about the nursing education tracks offered at the hospital. N. said she was told by a secretary that because she did not have an academic degree, she could not study nursing at the hospital, and that she then asked if there was a track that did not require a prior degree.

“She said that they have one, but it’s open for those of the Jewish religion,” N. recounted. Her friend said that N. told the secretary that N. herself is religious and was ready to take courses in Judaism, “but it didn’t help,” according to the friend.

The Lev Academic Center in Jerusalem.Credit: Emil Salman

The Health Ministry said in response that the Council for Higher Education approved the requirements and syllabus of the bachelor’s degree program run with the Lev Academic Center, “but the requirements do not prevent any candidate interested in meeting these threshold conditions from applying.”

The Lev Academic Center said it has “thousands of students from various sectors and backgrounds in Israeli society combining religious studies and science, in keeping with the character of the location.”

The center went on to say that its courses are open to any student committed to study the curriculum, including “religious studies in an atmosphere of a Torah study center that includes Judaism, Gemara, halakha, medical ethics and lessons from rabbis.”

“The center is a leader by every national measure, particularly when it comes to Health Ministry nursing education criteria, which is proof that Torah and science are not only not contradictory but are complementary fields of study,” the Lev Academic Center said.

Shaare Zedek Medical Center said it has a diverse staff from various religions and population groups “in every position and every department – including nurses, doctors, logistical staff and operations who on a daily basis work together to save lives and assist patients.”

The Council for Higher Education said it was unaware of the matter raised by N.