high court 298.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The High Court of Justice on Thursday rejected 10 individual petitions asking it to allow 10 occupational therapy students from the Gaza Strip to take a two-month practicum in the West Bank to complete their studies.
There is only one certified occupational therapist in the Gaza Strip, according to Gisha, the Center for Legal Protection of Freedom of Movement.
The petitions were filed by Gisha, the Gaza Community Mental Health Program and Bitona for Community Development on December 1, 2005, on behalf of the students, who had won scholarships to study occupational therapy in Bethlehem. There are no schools that teach the profession in the Gaza Strip.
Originally, the petition asked that the students be allowed to study in Bethlehem. Since then, they have taken courses via the Internet. Teachers from the Bethlehem school occasionally taught classes in Gaza. When it became difficult for them to enter Gaza, they met the students in Egypt. But now the students must take two months of clinical work in the West Bank to complete their studies and receive certification.
The state refused to grant them permission because of a ban it maintains on all men and women aged 16-35 to enter Israel for any purpose. The reason for this is that most terrorists belong to this age group. Students allegedly are particularly dangerous because they are constantly exposed to pressure on campus to join terrorist organizations.
The state also said it was easier to infiltrate into Israel from the West Bank than from Gaza. It rejected the petitioner's request to examine each of the students individually rather than withhold permission en bloc because of their age profile.
The court accepted the state's position.
"The state has set a general policy regarding young men and women aged 16 to 35 and regarding students," wrote Justice Elyakim Rubinstein. "This policy is based on experience and the assessment of dangers. In the end, considering that it is hard to find the line that distinguishes between individual examination of these particular students and the situation regarding all other young people of this age and students, we saw no legal reason to grant the petitioners' request."
Rubinstein called on the state to establish a committee to examine exceptional cases in which granting the request could have positive, humane consequences. This would be a new criteria for individual examination, joining the existing mechanism for investigating humanitarian requests from applicants in need of urgent medical care.