Dr. Randa Abbas – Druse Woman Trailblazer

Dr. Randa Abbas is a trailblazer. But when you ask her about her many accomplishments, she quickly changes the subject. “My success is not what I’ve done but how it is has influenced my daughters, my students and others in my community,” she says.

 

In 2007, Abbas became the first Druse woman to receive a PhD from Bar-Ilan University. Today she teaches at the Western Galilee Academic College, where she earned her BA and MA degrees and, at just 42-years-old, she is the dean of the Academic Arab Education College in Haifa.

 

But it is her daughters about whom she is most proud: her oldest is finishing her degree in pharmacology at Hebrew University; her 17-year-old spent a year studying abroad and plans to enroll in law after completing her national service in Israel.

 

It’s not just her children. “My students, including those who are Jewish, tell me I’m a role model,” she says. None of this would have been possible if Abbas had not pushed the boundaries of the conservative community she grew up in. “In order to improve yourself, you need to go into academia,” she explains. “Once you have those tools, you can influence not only our own family, but an entire society. It’s especially important to encourage women to move beyond their usual circles, to go out and learn.” It wasn’t always easy and it took time for her community to accept her. “I was like a rebel,” Abbas recalls.

 

Abbas chose Bar-Ilan University in part to get out of the Galilee, where she grew up and still lives, to experience life in the big city, and in part because "I felt Bar-Ilan was something similar, like my community. People told me I was crazy,” she laughs. “Why didn’t I just drive to Haifa, only an hour away, instead of to Tel Aviv, which can take up to four hours in the car, they’d say? But I wanted to hear other opinions, and to let people in the center of the country know about the Druse community.”

 

Abbas’s commute has clearly paid off and her students, family and community have much to be proud of – as does Bar-Ilan University, of Dr. Randa Abbas and her pioneering achievements.