Foreign Medical Students Will Have to Make Room for Israelis

By Hamodia Staff

The Sackler Faculty of Medicine building at Tel Aviv University. (Avishai Teicher)

YERUSHALAYIM – Israeli medical schools will no longer accept students from abroad, in order to make room for Israeli applicants, The Jerusalem Post reported on Tuesday.

The decision, made by the Council for Higher Education (CHE) and the Health and Finance Ministries, was due to the large number of Israelis who go to Europe to study medicine because they cannot find places in the Israeli medical schools.

Those already enrolled here will be allowed to complete their studies; the graduating class of 2026 will be the last for the Americans and Canadians who study in Israel.

The schools affected by the decision include Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Ben-Gurion Faculty of Health Sciences (BGU) in Beersheva and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s Rappaport Faculty of Medicine in Haifa. 

In a letter to foreign medical students, TAU’s Executive Dean Dr. Stephen Lazar wrote: “It is with the deepest regret that I must inform you that the Israeli government has directed all foreign medical programs, including American medical programs, to stop accepting new students. This political decision was made in order to increase the availability of seats in Israeli medical schools for the Hebrew programs so that many Israeli students will not have to travel abroad for their medical education.”

BGU president Prof. Daniel Chamovitz, told the Post, “there was no choice. We need more Israelis to study medicine here. BGU will close the New York office where foreigners applied for admission in Beersheva. Our American supporters will surely be disappointed by the decision, and the medical school will maintain its English instruction to help immigrants and returning Israelis who prefer studying in that language. But those who worked in our international school will teach Israelis instead of foreigners. Nothing will change.”

Prof. Rivka Carmi, former president of BGU and former dean of its medical faculty, acknowledged that the decision was “very regrettable, but there was no choice. There is a shortage of physicians and a lack of hospitals and professors available for clinical teaching.

“I was very enthusiastic about these programs for foreign students when I was BGU’s medical dean and president, but in recent years, I saw the problems of training enough Israeli physicians and realized that there is no choice. It was the right decision not to accept foreign medical students in the future. I think there is no choice but to be in favor, if you think of needs of Israel. I say this with a heavy heart,” said Carmi.

Tel Aviv University (TAU) has graduated 2,300 foreign doctors in since 1977; BGU has had an international program for 30 years and the Technion for about 20.

Since only about 900 Israelis are admitted to medical schools here in an average year, many go to Europe – Hungary, Italy, Romania, Germany, Holland and other countries – to get an MD degree, said Carmi, while Arabs go mostly to Jordan and other nearby countries. The Health Ministry is planning to increase the number to 1,200. 

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