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Are Arab nurses taking over in Israel?

By J. Zel Lurie

J. Zel Lurie

DELRAY BEACH, Florida — Thirty or forty years ago, at a time when women were beginning to break out of the traditional female occupations of teaching and nursing, a book promoter had a cute idea. She would ask a writer to query high school seniors on their career ambitions and publish the results.
The writer found one significant difference between Jewish and non-Jewish girls. The Christians still chose nursing as their first choice. The Jews placed nursing at the bottom of their list.
Cleaning bedpans was not the advice that Jewish mothers passed on to their daughters. They would rather be engineers. The non-Jews were satisfied with engineers in the second place of their choice list. Nursing still claimed first place.
I wonder whether the same fact of Jewish girls shunning nursing in favor of hi-tech start-ups holds true in the Jewish state.
I ask this question because of what I learned at Chautauqua from Maram Higazi a 21-year-old Moslem nursing student at the Hadassah nurse’s school in Jerusalem.
Maram is a resident of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, the Oasis of Peace, where she attended the primary school I built twenty years ago. Together with a Jewish boy who had graduated the school, they were invited to Chautauqua to talk about their unique village and the bilingual, bicultural, binominal primary school they had both attended.
Maram looks and dresses like an attractive American girl. But she is a devout Moslem who prays five times a day, she told me. She wears a traditional hijab to cover her hair only when she prays.
Her father is a doctor who heads the Department of Biochemistry at Hadassah. He is one of two Arabs who heads departments at the Hadassah Medical Center. He rises at 5  every morning to pray, she said.
Maram will enter her junior year at the Henrietta Szold nursing school next month. She will receive a bachelor’s degree in nursing in  two years. And here is the surprise.
“Of the sixty girls in my class,” she said, “twenty-six are Arabs.”
The same proportion of Arabs to Jews holds true in the other three classes, she said. That is over 43 percent of the graduates of Hadassah’s nursing school will come from the Arab minority, who are, except for the residents of East Jerusalem, citizens of Israel.
Maram identifies herself as a Palestinian Israeli. She, and the village of Jews and Arabs in which she lives, are the best answers to the bigoted American Jews who identify all Moslems with anti-Israel suicide bombers.
Maram says that she finds it wonderful that so many American Jews  have such a strong attachment to Israel despite  the fact that many have never been there.
One Chautauquan took it for granted that Maram and the Jewish boy, Omar Schwartz, were traveling together as a couple. She was quickly disabused. Omar keeps kosher. He refused to eat meat while he was in Chautauqua.
Many years ago, an Arab mayor of the village explained to me that  because they live together and are close friends as they grow up, they cling to their own ethnicity and religion.
Unlike American schools where interdating and intermarriage are common, there has never been a romance between Jewish and Arab graduates of the Lurie school at the Oasis of Peace.
I will leave further details to the sociologists. They must also look into the question of why so many Jewish girls are avoiding the honorable profession of nursing.
Maram chose to be a nurse, she said, because it combined her love of science and her desire to work with people.
It was a pleasure for me to listen to these two kids chattering in Hebrew. “My Hebrew is better than his Arabic,” Maram explained. Both speak perfect English with an American accent.
They are a credit to Israel and their village and to the school which I built.

Lurie is a freelance writer based in Delray Beach, Florida.  His column appears in The Jewish Journal of South Florida

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