Aiia Maasarwe’s memory continues to inspire

On the first anniversary of the murder of Palestinian-Israeli exchange student, Aiia Maasarwe, Gandel Foundation has boosted the campaign to fund the Aiia Maasarwe Memorial Medical Fellowship Program (the ‘Program’) with a major $50,000 dollar-for-dollar matching donation.

This has the potential to raise an additional $100,000 towards a target of $200,000 to provide training for Palestinian health workers in Israeli hospitals.  To date, $90,000 has been raised following the Program launch by Project Rozana in October, 2019.

Aiia’s father, Saeed, and sister, Noor, travelled to Australia for the launch (image below). 

The Program will provide financial support to Palestinian physicians who require training in much-needed sub-specialities, so they can return to their communities and build the health capacity of Palestinian society.

Aiia was brutally attacked in Melbourne near La Trobe University on the evening of January 16, 2019.  Her death caused an outpouring of grief, as the community demanded action against an unprecedented number of unprovoked attacks against women.  

The CEO of Gandel Foundation, Vedran Drakulic OAM, said “The Gandel family is pleased to be able to provide support to help honour Aiia Maasarwe’s memory in a way that will enable cross-cultural training and cooperation in health between Israelis and Palestinians, and improve health outcomes for all.

“We hope this Project Rozana initiative will be a very successful one and we encourage the community to partner with us at this important time.”

His comments were echoed by Ron Finkel AM, Chair of Project Rozana.

“We are indebted to the Gandel family and its philanthropic arm, for their support of Project Rozana,” Mr Finkel said. 

“They are among a growing number of philanthropic organisations in Australia who recognise that health, more than any other part of civil society, allows Palestinians and Israelis to meet on common ground and advance their mutual interests.”

After receiving news of the new donor initiative at this difficult time, Saeed Maasarwe said his family wants to thank all donors who have contributed so generously to the Aiia Maasarwe Memorial Medical Fellowship.

“The donations will be used wisely and their impact comes at a time when we need hope and inspiration,” he said.

“My daughter would have been inspired by Project Rozana which is helping Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza to receive the same level of health care that we do in Israel,” he said.

“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 works to create understanding and build bridges between Israelis and Palestinians through health initiatives.  It was launched in Australia in 2013, inspired by the remarkable survival story of a young Palestinian girl, Rozana Salawhi.  The organisation raises funds to:

  • Train young Palestinian clinicians working in Palestinian hospitals to take up medical fellowships with sub-specialty experts in Israeli hospitals and bring their newly-acquired skills and knowledge back to their home hospital, thereby building the health capacity of their communities.
  • Transport Palestinian patients from checkpoints in Gaza and the West Bank to hospitals in Israel. This is managed together with partner NGO, Road to Recovery, which arranges for Palestinian and Israeli drivers to transfer patients and their caregivers from their homes in the Palestinian Territories to hospitals in Israel, thus avoiding the high costs of commercial transport which can be prohibitive for many families.
  • Treat critically-ill Palestinian children in Israeli hospitals in cases where the necessary treatments are not available in Palestinian hospitals, or are limited due to lack of specialists and/or equipment.
  • Treat children in Israel from centres of conflict in the region.

Today, the organisation has affiliates in the United States, Canada, Israel and across the Palestinian Territories.  See more about Project Rozana here.

Project Rozana’s Medical Fellowships support the treatment of diseases in the Palestinian population and build Palestine’s health capacity.

In 2017, Dr Mohammed Majed Rabee Skafi from Hebron was awarded the two-year fellowship for residency in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Hadassah Hospital, Jerusalem, and Dr Majed Dabur from Ramallah was awarded a two-year residency in anaesthesiology at Sheba Hospital in Tel Aviv. 

In 2019, Dr Khadra Salami, senior paediatrician at Augusta Victoria Hospital, East Jerusalem, began her two-year Paediatric Bone Marrow Transplantation specialisation training at Hadassah Hospital, Jerusalem, bringing her expertise back to the children’s cancer ward at Augusta Victoria Hospital.

See more about Project Rozana’s Medical Fellowship program here.