Next week a group of 150 Jewish high school students will ride Jerusalem’s light rail while conversing only in Arabic. It is a noble initiative that has been poorly presented by some organizers and journalists giving the impression of overbearing racism in the Jewish state.
The event has been organized by the movement known as Tag Meir, established to combat those hate crimes perpetrated by Jews, primarily against Arabs. Over the past several years, there have been numerous occurrences of anti-Arab graffiti, and more recently a handful of violent attacks by Jews against Arabs and Druze have made headlines.
“We’ve decided to give Arabic speakers in Jerusalem visibility and even pride,” organizer Merav Livneh-Dill told The Times of Israel. “The goal is to allow Arabic to exist in the public sphere and legitimize those who want to speak it but are afraid to do so.”
After reaching the light rail’s final station at Mt. Herzl, the students will be joined by Education Ministry officials for a ceremony conducted in both Hebrew and Arabic.
While the initiative is itself positive and demonstrates, once again, that Israel is in fact not an apartheid state, it also runs the risk of misrepresenting the issue.
It is not as though Arabs in general are afraid to and refrain from speaking their language in Jewish-dominated areas.
The main Jerusalem shopping mall near my home is regularly filled with Arab shoppers speaking Arabic, and no one seems to mind.
Arab children playing and conversing in Arabic can be found at public parks across the city any given weekend, and no one seems to mind.
Just last week, a man sitting near me on the bus ride to my Jewish neighborhood was speaking Arabic loudly into his phone. He was clearly not fearful of doing so, and, again, none of the Jews round about us seemed to mind.
Initiatives like the above are a good thing, but should not be presented out of context. The majority of Israelis already have no problem with Arabs speaking Arabic in their midst, and the few extremists who do won’t be deterred by this demonstration, anyway.
PHOTO: Jews and Arabs ride Jerusalem's light rail together.