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The father of Ahmad Nawaf Al-Salaymeh, 14, released from Israeli jail press November 28, 2023


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Feature Story

Israel Bans Palestinian Youths Released in Israel-Hamas Swap Deal from Returning to School


The Ministry of Education issues a ruling on education for young released Palestinian prisoners that breaks Israeli law on mandatory education for children.

Approximately 54 Palestinian students released in the recent Israel-Hamas hostage/prisoner exchange swaps are prohibited from returning to school under an Israeli Ministry of Education order.

According to sources familiar with the matter, the Ministry of Education sent WhatsApp messages to school administrations affiliated with the ministry, stating, “There are instructions regarding the released students. Students are not allowed to be reintegrated into schools until further notice.”1

“This constitutes an illegal directive that violates the principle of independence and discretion to which principals are entitled, and completely ignores the best interests of the students,” Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) attorney Tal Hassin said in a letter to Israeli Education Minister Yoav Kisch.2

A session will be held with representatives from the Ministry of Education, Jerusalem Municipality, and intelligence to discuss the issue; the date of that session has not been announced. No final decision will be made on whether the students are allowed to return until after January 14, 2024—when winter vacation ends.

Photo Album Released Palestinian Prisoners Return Home to Jerusalem

Palestinian women and child prisoners are finally reunited with their families in Jerusalem.

“Students are not allowed to be reintegrated into schools until further notice.”

The Ministry of Education did not respond to a request from Jerusalem Story for comment on why the directive was taken against the Palestinian students.

Experts have questioned the legality of the order. Attorney Nasrin Alian and Dr. Shiran Reichenberg from the children and youth rights’ clinic at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Law explained to Haaretz that Israel’s Compulsory Education Law mandates the state, Education Ministry, and local authorities to grant the right to education to children up to the 12th grade.3

“More than a decade ago, there was a ruling that East Jerusalem children are entitled to the right to equal education like any other child in Israel,” they told Haaretz. “Even children sent to prison exercise their right to education, all the more so upon their release. In this specific context, it is also important to note that these minors were released in the transaction without any choice or without the ability to give informed consent.”

Released from Prison but Denied a Return to School

Among the students released, Ahmed Al-Salaymeh, 14, from the Wadi Qadum neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem, was prohibited from returning to his school, Ras al-Amud School for Boys, after spending four months in prison.

When his father, Nawaf Al-Salaymeh, made inquiries, the school informed him of the Education Ministry’s order.

Nawaf Al-Salaymeh discovered through his lawyer that all prisoners—not just those released in the exchange deal—are prohibited from returning to school. Jerusalem Story reached out to the Education Ministry to verify this information but did not receive an answer. More than 150 Palestinians currently held in Israeli jails are children, according to Defense for Children International—Palestine.4

The educational options for Ahmed Al-Salaymeh and other newly freed students are limited. The majority of schools in Jerusalem are run by the municipality. Private institutions, which make up 30 percent of Jerusalem schools, are unaffordable for many families, including the Salaymehs.5 The remaining (Palestinian Authority-operated) schools are overcrowded and do not have the capacity to absorb more students. Even the suggestion of exchanging PA school students with imprisoned students is unacceptable to Nawaf Al-Salaymeh, because that would normalize the Education Ministry’s new regulation.

Ahmed Al-Salaymeh was arrested in May, along with his two cousins. Arrested for alleged stone-throwing, Ahmed Al-Salaymeh’s charges evolved to include anti-Semitism and presenting a danger to public security. He was initially sentenced to house arrest in July, but his family rejected that; they knew that however long he spent in house arrest, he would eventually be imprisoned for the entire sentence, without reduction for time in house arrest, and that would pose a longer disruption to his education. The judge then ruled to send Ahmed Al-Salaymeh and his cousins to Damon Prison, the same prison where his father, Nawaf, had been sent 30 years ago.

Palestinian teenagers (left to right) Mohamed, Ahmad, and Moataz Al-Salaymeh, cousins imprisoned by Israel before their release as part of an exchange deal, walk next to Ahmad’s father in Ras al-Amud, East Jerusalem, December 12, 2023.

Palestinian teenagers (left to right) Mohamed, Ahmad, and Moataz Al-Salaymeh, cousins imprisoned by Israel before their release as part of an exchange deal between Israel and Hamas, walk next to Ahmad’s father in their neighborhood of Ras al-Amud in East Jerusalem on December 12, 2023.


Ahmad Gharabli for Getty Images

Ahmed Al-Salaymeh’s brother, Ayham, 13, was also arrested the day before his brother, at 4:00 a.m. He was not old enough to go to prison, so he was confined to house arrest. (The exchange deal did not include children imprisoned in their homes.) Ayham’s next court appearance is January 6, 2024, by which time he will be 14 years old, the legal age for incarceration in Israel, to prosecute him. His father believes the date was set with Ayham’s age in mind.

Prison Conditions Deteriorated after October 7

Before October 7, Nawaf Al-Salaymeh explained, the family was able to visit their sons in prison and bring them food and clothing and even call them. After October 7, the family lost all contact.

“The prison took their phones away, took away the food that we had purchased for them from the canteen, took their clothes away, and banned them from their daily break in the yard. It was a complete disconnection from the reality,” Nawaf Al-Salaymeh said, adding the family was hearing conflicting information about what was happening to prisoners during this time, whether they were in solitary confinement or being badly beaten.

Even the details surrounding Ahmed Al-Salaymeh’s release were not transparent. Nawaf Al-Salaymeh only found out his son was part of the exchange deal when his name was listed on Israel’s official courts website as prisoners to be released.

Without the exchange deal, Ahmed Al-Salaymeh would have been imprisoned for three to four years. Yet even freed, he is still chained by Israeli oppressive regulations.

Targeting the Upcoming Generation

“This isn’t Ahmed’s problem—this is a community problem,” Nawaf Al-Salaymeh said. “These are procedures to target the upcoming generation.”

Izz al-Din Mutasim Tutah (second from the right), 14, released as part of a swap deal between Israel and Hamas, reunites with his family in Wadi al-Joz, Jerusalem, November 30, 2023.

Izz al-Din Mutasim Tutah (second from the right), 14, released as part of a swap deal between Israel and Hamas, reunites with his family in Wadi al-Joz, Jerusalem, November 30, 2023.


Saeed Qaq/Anadolu via Getty Images

When children can be arrested and prosecuted for trivial or vague “offenses” and then denied an education, Nawaf Al-Salaymeh’s assertion that a generation is being targeted by Israel becomes clearer, and the parents’ determination to challenge the government rulings and regulations becomes more necessary.

“He is determined to go back to his school,” Nawaf Al-Salaymeh said of his son. “We will stand by his side and all the prisoners’ sides so that they would have the right to education—a right nobody can take away from them, not even the [Israeli] occupation.”

“These are procedures to target the upcoming generation.”

Nawaf Al-Salaymeh



Written communication from Ir Amim spokesperson Ran Yaron to the author, December 15, 2023.


Hasson, “Israeli Education Ministry.”


Number of Palestinian Children (12–17) in Israeli Military Detention,” Defense for Children International—Palestine, December 2, 2023.


Education under Occupation: East Jerusalem,” Teach Palestine, accessed January 1, 2024.

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