TEL AVIV – An Israeli bus company will no longer be making announcements in Arabic on the buses’ PA system in the southern city of Beersheba, following several complaints from Jewish commuters.
The Dan Bus Company operated a PA system with announcements in both Hebrew and Arabic on its new buses in the city. After the company received a deluge of complaints about the Arabic-language announcements, it turned to the Ministry of Transportation, which instructed the company to get rid of the Arabic.
One headline in a local Beersheba newspaper read: “Beersheba Residents Furious: ‘Announcements in Arabic, From Metro-Dan To Metro-Gaza.’”
The Transportation Ministry told Channel 2 that even though all written information, such as bus stop names, must be in both Hebrew and Arabic, the same is not true for announcements. For that reason the Arabic announcements will not be activated on the buses until “uniform criteria” are in place.
The Transportation Ministry later said that the decision to remove the Arabic announcements came at the request of Beersheba Mayor Ruvik Danilovich who received complaints to his office. It added that the Arabic-language announcements were activated for less than a day in all.
Beersheba city hall told Channel 2: “In accordance with the response of the Transportation Ministry in regards to bilingual announcements, once they are implemented in all of Israel, they will also be implemented in the city of Beersheba.”
Just under 2% of Beersheba’s 200,000-strong population are Arabic speakers.
Attorney Shada Aamer of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) demanded the Transportation Ministry reinstate the announcements. “There is no doubt that this decision is illegitimate and illegal, which excludes an entire public from the public sphere and harms its basic right to equality,” Aamer wrote. “The Transportation Ministry must work to permanently fix the situation and to bring back the Arabic announcements in all bus lines in Beersheba and in the rest of the country.”
Atta Abu Madiyam, the deputy mayor of Rahat, a Bedouin city of over 50,000 residents located around 12 miles from Beersheba, described the measure as an attack on coexistence in the Negev.
“This racist decision only undermines the coexistence that prevails in the Negev and in particular in Beersheba,” Abu Madiyam told Channel 2, saying that both Jews and Arabs will come out in protest if the decision is not overturned.