Health International SP Staff

Why So Many Young Arab-Israelis Are Becoming Doctors

[Nenad Stojkovic / CC BY 2.0]

A new social phenomenon is taking shape in Israel: Arab and Druze Israelis, who make up 20 percent of Israel’s population, now represent half the medical professionals in the country. A combination of a desire to help others, as well as being locked out of other professions due to prejudice and other socio-economic factors stemming in part from its decades-long occupation of Palestinian territories, have led to their dominance in this vital field, according to Haaretz.

As the Israeli paper reports, there are pros and cons to this phenomenon, including that it causes gaps in Arab and Druze representation in other professions. It also leads many young people to give up on dreams to pursue other careers. Perhaps more importantly, however, it seems to be changing the image that people have of these communities both inside and outside of Israel.

Haaretz reports:

The abundance of people from the Arab community in the health-care professions has become a fixture of local culture: the nurse who administers the coronavirus vaccine, the pharmacist in the drugstore who is ubiquitous enough to have been made a character on the satirical program “Eretz Nehederet,” and of course the physicians – all of them symbolizing the entrenchment of Israel’s Arab citizens in the medical fields.

This social phenomenon, which some see as setting the Arab elite on a track into this field, is expanding. New data issued by the Health Ministry in a 2020 report on health care personnel show that the Arabs and Druze in Israel, who make up about 20 percent of the country’s population, constitute almost half (46 percent) of recipients of medical licenses; half of the new nurses, male and female (50 percent, as compared with just 9 percent in 2000); and more than half the dentists (53 percent) and pharmacists (57 percent).

In addition to the fact that Arabs comprise a vastly larger proportion of the medical field than their share in the population, this meteoric surge within just two decades has transformed the face of medicine in Israel. Besides the leap of more than fivefold in the number of Arab nurses since the start of the century, there has been a fourfold increase in the number of Arab physicians, the number of Arab dentists has more than doubled and the overall proportion of Arab pharmacists has almost tripled, from 21 percent in 2000 to 57 percent in 2020.

There are clear reasons that induce young Arabs to flock to the health care industry. “The medical professions are generally in the public arena, to which the terms of admission are a degree and a certificate. In high-tech, however, it’s not enough to have an engineering degree, you need connections such as [having served in the army’s intelligence unit] 8200, and also ‘soft’ skills that are less present in the Arab population,” explains Dr. Marian Tehawkho, director of the Center for Economic Policy of the Israeli Arab Society, part of the Aaron Institute at Reichman University (formerly the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya).

Read the full story at Haaretz.

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