Israeli Medical Students: Keep Us in Israel

300 students pen letter to PM, Deputy Health Minister demanding government assistance to keep them studying in their home country.

Tova Dvorin ,

Empty hospitals (illustrative)
Empty hospitals (illustrative)

Israeli students studying abroad have demanded government funding for their studies, Army radio reports Sunday - claiming that the high price and low acceptance rates have driven them out of their home country to seek education elsewhere. 

Three hundred students penned a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman begging them for help with their studies, stating that they, too, deserve the type of full government funding for medical students customary in Europe. 

"Medicine has become a profession only for the rich," they said. "We are tired of the system abusing those who choose a moral mission by learning the medical professions." 

Government funding would allow low-interest student loans for medical students, the same as offered for students learning in Israel. Many state-sponsored Israeli institutions offer interest-free loans to needy students and demand payment only after graduation; Israeli student debt is comparatively low in comparison to the US, with just 1/3 of Israeli students taking out loans to cover their expenses, according to a June 2014 Panels survey for The Marker

However, the system is skewed against medical students, current undergraduates say - and the paramedical and medical sciences in Israel have been marked by a number of strikes at home and a mass exodus abroad over difficulties being accepted to programs and - once accepted - difficulties attaining internship spots. 

In April 2014, for example, hundreds of Physical Therapy students across Israel staged a three-week strike against the Council for Higher Education and the Ministry of Health over unfair internship policies and deliberate overcrowding; several protests were launched across the country, culminating in a 1,000-person strong demonstration outside CHE headquarters that included athletes and professionals.

The situation has not improved much: according to the Ministry of Health, 62% of physicians who received their licenses in 2013 had been enrolled in universities abroad to complete their studies, and 51% of those who fall into this category made the decision to leave Israel after falling short of the meticulously high standards for acceptance into Israeli medical schools. 

One doctor of a preparatory program for medical students noted to Army radio that, as such, English-speaking European schools are "attractive" options for Israelis - and of the 500 students who leave Israel every year for medical school, about half choose to live abroad permanently.