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.
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.