Hundreds of students from Gaza who are enrolled in universities abroad have already missed the current academic year, and now their studies for next year are in jeopardy, too. In a letter (Hebrew) we sent to the Coordinator of Government Activities (COGAT) yesterday, we asked that students be allowed to travel through Israel to the Allenby Bridge border crossing and continue to their destinations via Jordan.
In theory, the Israeli authorities have no objection to letting students travel abroad via this route. In fact, in November 2014, Israel said it would allow 30 students from Gaza to travel abroad via Allenby Bridge every week. The most recent version of the regulations (Hebrew) by which COGAT regulates the movement of Palestinians, published this week, also states that, in addition to medical patients and individuals participating in special conferences, “students enrolled in advanced degree programs abroad” may travel (Sec G.5, p. 16).
So what is the problem? Too little, too slow. Eight months have gone by since that statement was made near the end of 2014, and so far, only 94 students have left Gaza, in three separate instances. Most of the students who were hoping to study abroad this year have lost their scholarships and visas, which have since expired, and have missed the school year. A new academic year will begin in September, and those who wish to take part have already begun their preparations.
Ever since the Egyptian regime change in mid-2013, Rafah Crossing has been open with decreasing frequency, and today, it is nearly impossible to travel through it. The only practical way to get to university in a foreign country is to travel through Erez Crossing, which is controlled by Israel. Top security officials repeatedly express their support for facilitating the rehabilitation of civilian life in the Gaza Strip. Few things would help more than supporting the education of the future generation.