The Israeli authorities on Saturday reopened the first of six colleges in the occupied lands that have been closed for 30 months due to the Palestinian uprising.
The reopening of Ramallah College of Paramedical Sciences is seen as a test case. If it goes well, the other Arab universities in the occupied territories could be allowed to open again, too. The schools have a total of 18,000 students.The Palestinian institutions of higher learning were closed by the Israeli military shortly after the uprising erupted in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in December 1987. The military contended the schools were hotbeds of unrest.
The shutdown drew sharp criticism from the United States and Western Europe, which said it amounted to collective punishment. The European Parliament at one point recommended that scientific cooperation with Israel be frozen until the universities and colleges in the occupied lands were reopened.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir ordered the gradual reopening of the schools on May 14. But the order was suspended for a month following the May 20 massacre of seven Gaza laborers by an Israeli gunman near Tel Aviv and the subsequent wave of riots in the occupied territories.
There were virtually no classes at the Ramallah school on Saturday because many students failed to appear. On the nearby Jerusalem-Ramallah road, long lines of cars were seen at army roadblocks, and some students said it was hard to pass through.
The college director, Farsin Arabikian, that while the school was closed, some students got married, others went abroad and some were jailed. Only 15 of the former 38 nursing students had re-registered, she said.
"The fate of the college is unpredictable and students are affected by what is going on outside the college," she said.
Arabikian expected about 150 students to pursue studies this year in the college's three departments - nursing, X-ray and medical technology.
Underground leaders of the rebellion have said in recent leaflets that resumption of studies was a top priority, and that students must not give the army an excuse to close schools.