Building understanding between Israelis and Palestinians through health




In life, Aiia Maasarwe was a deeply loved member of a proud Palestinian-Israeli family from central Israel. Like her siblings and friends, she dreamed about peace in her region and the benefits it would bring to her country, her community and to her own personal ambitions.

But in a cruel twist, on January 16, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia, Aiia’s life was taken from her in the most brutal way imaginable. An exchange student at La Trobe University, Aiia was on the phone to her sister when she was randomly attacked, raped and murdered.

While most of her dreams will rest in the memory of those who knew her well, one dream will take flight and change lives in ways that Aiia could never have imagined.

The Aiia Maasarwe Memorial Medical Fellowship Program was created by Project Rozana to honour Aiia’s memory, and to use it as a springboard to build professional relationships between Palestinian and Israeli healthcare workers for the benefit of both communities.

Finding pathways to peace between people had been a motif of Aiia’s life. Her family believes that codifying that hope in Project Rozana’s fellowship program would have been warmly embraced by their daughter and sibling.

Her father, Saeed, and sister, Noor, travelled to Australia on the eve of the sentencing of the killer. They were also on hand for the launch of the Fellowship, which the family had given its blessing to. It was a bitter-sweet moment for a man whose tragic family circumstances have been thrust into the spotlight.

Fortunately, he drew strength from the presence of the inaugural Fellow, Dr Khadra Hasan Ali Salami, a senior paediatric haemato-oncology physician from Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem. Khadra will study for two years with Professor Polina Stepensky, a leading bone marrow transplantation specialist at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem, Jerusalem.

Khadra will become the first woman in Palestine to graduate as a bone transplantation specialist, but her example and her determination to build the health capacity of Palestinian society will see more women opting to work in sub-specialties like this.

As Saeed told Australians:

“You have shared our pain… please share our hopes that Aiia’s death so far from her home can have meaning beyond the tragedy. Please support Project Rozana.”