On one of September’s hottest Sunday evenings, a small group gathered to listen to Amal Khayat, a Hebrew University doctoral candidate from East Jerusalem, who dedicates her life to building bridges, and working with young Palestinian women to break through glass ceilings and pursue their dreams.
Amal Khayat (35) was born and raised in East Jerusalem. Until the age of 25, she had not met an Israeli citizen who wasn’t a soldier, police officer, or a prison guard. At the time she finished high school, pursuing education on the Israeli side was not acceptable in her community, and as a religious Muslim woman, her future was uncertain.
She decided to study Pharmacology at Al-Quds University in the West Bank. After completing her undergraduate studies and despite the opposition of some of her family members, she decided to enrol in second-degree studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Here, she encountered students from the ‘other side’, and started deconstructing and reconstructing the narrative she had grown up with through meaningful and life-changing encounters.
Throughout her studies, her life has transformed. Amal is currently a doctoral candidate at the Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine at the Hebrew University and Hadassah Medical Center. She holds an MA in Glocal’s Community Development Studies and an MSc in International Master of Public Health (IMPH), both from the Hebrew University. She has been recently awarded Hadassah’s Scholarship for distinguished and socially engaged PhD Students, and in the upcoming semester, she will be a junior faculty member and teaching international students at the Hebrew University.
“I never thought I would be able to study at the Hebrew University. I was accepted into an amazing program and received a scholarship, and it has changed my life on many levels; both professionally and personally. The opportunity to study with Israeli Jewish students who have diverse and varied opinions, and international students who remind all of us that a whole world of pain and magic exists outside of our bubble, opened my eyes in so many ways. It broadened my horizons and changed how I see those who are supposed to be ‘my enemy’. The professors who taught me had a tremendous impact on my life and made me a better person. To this day, they give me hope that I can reach new heights, and hope that together, we can build a shared future”. She shares “The Hebrew University is the place that opens doors for you, the place to receive top quality education, and the place that welcomes you and tells you that here, you have a place to call your own. Here, you belong. I told my younger sister that she should only attend the Hebrew University, there’s no other acceptable option. She took a year to learn Hebrew and study for her psychometric test, got accepted, and I helped with her tuition when needed. She completed her bachelor’s degree in two programs; international relations, and sociology and anthropology, and is now pursuing a master’s in sociology, and I’m extremely proud of the person she’s become”.
Amal is also a fellow of the George Pinto Jerusalem Leadership Programme with the Jerusalem Foundation. The project she’s managing aims at improving social welfare services in East Jerusalem, to be provided by qualified social workers from East Jerusalem itself, with the combined efforts of the Jerusalem Foundation, Jerusalem Municipality and the Paul Baerwald School of Social Work and Social Welfare at the Hebrew University. “Stereotypes can be broken, and if approached with an open mind, you can be surprised by what’s on the other side”, she says. In addition, she volunteers in East Jerusalem, providing support to women, the elderly and students who need academic guidance. Since 2016, she has been a fellow of Solutions Not Sides, an organisation dedicated to educating British students on the Israeli’Palestinian conflict from a human perspective, breaking stereotypes and giving hope by sharing their stories; Amal is the Palestinian coordinator for Solutions Not Sides.
Hearing her captivating story was truly inspiring and eye-opening. We wish to thank Amal for sharing her story with us and wish her all the best of luck in her inspiring journey.