Arabic-Language Information on Buses is a Basic Civil Right

4.12.16

We would like to say something about leadership and the lack‏ ‏of it. Our struggle to create ‎a shared space for Jews and Arabs is not easy. Like any complex struggle, sometimes ‎we experience setbacks. The following is one of them: The city of Be’er Sheva and the ‎Ministry of Transport chose to take a step back by announcing they cancel the Arabic-‎language announcement system on buses around town. ‎

The‏ ‏buses PA system is more than just a technical issue. It is crucial to making public ‎transportation accessible to all segments of the population, and it plays a central role in ‎fostering a shared public space in which all of us, both Jews and Arabs, can feel at home.
For this reason we’ve been leading a campaign for the past 5 years to add Arabic-‎language information to the entire public transportation system: From signs on train ‎stations to PA systems on buses. ‎

A Dan bus in Be’er Sheva, which includes station names in both Hebrew and Arabic. Photo: +972 Magazine

A Dan bus in Be’er Sheva, which includes station names in both Hebrew and Arabic. Photo: +972 Magazine

We were excited and impressed when Dan, one of Israel’s largest bus companies, ‎demonstrated leadership by adding Arabic announcements to its buses in Beer Sheva, ‎which serve thousands of Arabic speakers from the entire region. ‎We were disappointed and infuriated to find out the mayor of Be’er Sheva and the ‎Ministry of Transport decided to do the exact opposite by agreeing to halt Arabic-language ‎announcements following complaints by city residents. ‎

Advancing the creation of a shared space always encounters opposition, but leadership ‎means to be resolute in the face of racist manifestations and never to surrender to these ‎expressions by some of the residents. True leadership must set the course for for shared ‎society and equality.

We suggest that he learn a thing or two about courage and ‎leadership from Ortal Perelman Shmuely, a member of the Be’er Sheva city council ‎‎(Likud), who urged him yesterday to bring back the announcements in Arabic. Her words ‎were right on: “We must aspire to create an equal society that embraces all of its people.” ‎This is exactly what we are talking about: either we become a society dominated by the ‎fear of the other or we realize that a sharing the public space between Arabs and Jewis ‎should be a source of pride that leads to a better life for all of us.


We are not giving up. Quite the opposite. Public transportation will become a shared ‎space. Despite the obstacles, this process has already gained significant traction ‎throughout Israel. Here is a list of some of the transformations achieved during the past ‎year: Arabic signs in Egged bus stops; Arabic announcements on Dan buses; Arabic ‎announcements and signs on public transportation in north of Israel and a new bi-lingual ‎App for the Ministry of We will keep working to make sure that public transportation ‎becomes a shared and equal space all over Israel.‎

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