Aiia Maasarwe

Saaed Maasarwe

Aiia Maasarwe, a Palestinian Israeli was killed in January 2019 as she returned home from an evening out.

Saaed Maasarwe, the father of exchange student, Aiia will return to Australia to attend the sentencing hearing of his daughter’s killer, and thank the people of Melbourne for their overwhelming support. And he will launch a medical fellowship program in her name.

Aiia’s death sparked an outpouring of grief in Melbourne, with thousands attending a vigil in the CBD and rallying around Mr. Maasarwe when he came to Australia to return his daughter’s body to Israel.

During his visit, Mr Maasarwe will launch the Aiia Maasarwe Memorial Medical Fellowship Program for Project Rozana, an organisation that builds better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians through health initiatives.

In his darkest despair, Mr. Maasarwe has said that he wants his daughter’s memory and legacy to spread love and hope. He said she would be humbled to have a medical fellowship program established in her name.

The Aiia Maasarwe Memorial Medical Fellowship Program will provide financial support to Palestinian physicians training in Israeli hospitals, so they can address the needs of their people. The inaugural Fellowship will be awarded to Dr Khadra Salami, a senior paediatrician in haematological-oncology. Dr Salami will undertake a two-year paediatric bone marrow transplantation training program at Hadassah Hospital, Ein Kerem, Jerusalem. The aim is to enable complex transplantation surgery to be undertaken at the Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem, where she is based.

Mr Maasarwe said,

“Aiia would have been inspired by Project Rozana and its commitment to ensure that Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza receive the same level of health care that we do in Israel. Project Rozana shows that Israelis and Palestinians can live and work together in harmony, and that is also something that was important for Aiia.”

Project Rozana founder and chair, Mr Ron Finkel AM said,

“Like so many people here and overseas, the leadership of Project Rozana was deeply affected by Aiia’s tragic death and motivated to create a project in her name. Our hope is that the Aiia Maasarwe Memorial Medical Fellowship Program will have lasting impact by building bridges to better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians and represent, in a meaningful way, the power of her life rather than the tragedy of her death. Project Rozana is humbled and honoured to have the support of Aiia’s family in setting up this fellowship program.”

Dr Khadra Salami will also be in Australia for the launch of the Aiia Maasarwe Memorial Medical Fellowship Program and available to speak about her work.

Saeed Maasarwe’s oldest daughter, Noor will be with him in Australia.

The public will be able to donate to the Aiia Maasarwe Memorial Medical Fellowship Program through the link below.

Aiia Maasarwe

Aiia was the child of an Israeli family that is proud of its Palestinian, Muslim and Arab heritage and connected in multiple ways with the communities of all backgrounds surrounding them. Her family describe Aiia as a bright, engaging, positive individual, full of hope and optimism.

Aiia was in Australia as an exchange student at La Trobe University, a visitor to our country when she was brutally assaulted and murdered in Melbourne in January 2019. She was one of a long list of female fatalities in Australia, victims of unprovoked violence – 79 in 2018 and 46 to date in 2019. She was only 21 years old when she was killed.

In her honour and in her memory, the Maasarwe family have agreed to support an initiative that reflects her hope and optimism and will make a difference to people in the region – Israel and Palestine – that she called home.

Dr Khadra Salami

Dr Khadra Salami, inaugural recipient of the Aiia Maasarwe Memorial Medical Fellowship.

Softly-spoken Khadra is arguably one of the more powerful women in Palestinian society. Her influence is not through the spoken or written word, but through the actions of a committed and passionate paediatric haemato-oncology specialist.

Most of us have never heard of her. More’s the pity. Like a Pied Piper, she is leading Palestinian children facing life-threatening illness to good health. On her journey she has enlisted the support of some of Israel’s best research minds. That also makes her one of the most successful, albeit modest, stateswomen of her generation.

There are two realities in this story.

The first is that there are only six paediatric haemato-oncologists working in the Palestinian Territories, despite a significant and worrying increase in the number of children presenting with cancer. With the support of Project Rozana through the Aiia Maasarwe Memorial Medical Fellowship, she will do her specialist training at Hadassah Hospital inJerusalem under the highly regarded Prof. Polina Stepensky, Chair of Hadassah’s Department of Bone Marrow Transplantation and Cancer Immunotherapy. So Khadra will certainly be making a profound and lasting difference to Palestinian children and their families.

The second is that she never met Aiia Maasarwe, the young Israeli-Palestinian exchange student who was brutally murdered in Australia in January, 2019. Aiia lived in the village of Baqa al-Gharbiyye near Haifa, while Khadra lives in Ramallah and travels daily from the West Bank to Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem. Close, but never close enough, until now.

Aiia’s father, Saeed, says that not only would his daughter have approved of Khadra becoming the inaugural recipient of a medical fellowship named in her honour. Aiia would have been proud that Khadra is building the capacity of the Palestinian healthcare system with the support of Israel, which has one of the most advanced healthcare systems in the Western world.

Khadra initially graduated from Al-Quds University Medical School in Abu Dis, East Jerusalem in 2004. She began her paediatric residency in 2005 at Al-Makassed Charitable Hospital in East Jerusalem, and later completed her post-doctoral training in paediatric hematology at the King Hussein Cancer Center in Amman, Jordan. Khadra is also a published and peer-reviewed author.

The relationship with Project Rozana has meant a great deal to Dr Khadra Salami, as it is to a growing number of Palestinian medical personnel. Significantly, Project Rozana’s mantra of ‘train local, stay local’ is not only helping to build the Palestinian healthcare system by keeping young doctors connected to their home communities. It is also beneficial for Palestinian health professionals who can maintain family relationships, as they can return home each day after work.

Project Rozana provides an accessible pathway for Palestinian doctors to some of the best medical specialists in the world, who live and work in Israel. That, says Saeed Maasarwe, would have undoubtedly pleased his daughter.