A road sign in English, Hebrew, and Arabic points to the Israeli settlement of Susiya.
(photo credit: AFP PHOTO)
During the Knesset’s special debate marking Arabic Language Day on Tuesday, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said that Arabic is an official language that should not be ignored in Israeli society.
Throughout the day Knesset committees and subcommittees discussed various issues related to the Arab sector, including public transportation the teaching of Arabic in schools, providing court services in Arabic, providing online government services in Arabic, and Arabic signage in mixed cities.
“Despite the fact that the mother tongue of most of our citizens is Hebrew, we cannot and should not ignore the Arabic language or push it away from the public sphere or from the landscape of our lives in general,” Edelstein said.
He noted that the Knesset website is accessible in Arabic.
“Language is a very important bridge between cultures and nations, and I am convinced that mutual familiarity with the neighbor’s language, particularly when it comes to places with mixed populations, can significantly lower the wall of alienation,” he added.
One of the changes to be made is by the Transport Ministry, which will provide signs in Arabic.
Joint List MK Dov Henin (Hadash), the chairman of the subcommittee for public transportation said, “In the coming year there will appear a significant change in public transportation in Arab communities in general and accessibility of information to passengers in Arabic in particular.”
Gabi Navon, director of planning public transportation at the Transportation Ministry, promised that by the end of August there would be signs in Arabic in all public transport stations in the country and that signs and vocal directions would be translated in buses serving areas where 50 percent of the residents are Arabs.
He explained that no electric signs are located at bus stops in Arab towns because of vandalism.
Joint List MK Abdel-Hakim Haj Yahya (UAL) said he encountered many errors in Arabic signs and urged that native Arabic speakers should do the translations.
In the Science and Technology Committee, a report looked at 31 government websites and concluded that around one third have no Arabic content.
Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen, who initiated the special day, said, "Arabic is an official language in Israel and is the language of the region, as well as the mother tongue of about a fifth of Israel's citizens."
"The right of language and the principle of multiculturalism must ensure the proper status of Arabic, including the education system, public services and public areas," he added.
Jabareen went on to say that the special Knesset session should serve as a platform to promote the status of Arabic and future steps to use language as a real bridge for peace and coexistence.
"The challenge now is in the implementation of the recommendation adopted by the various parliamentary committees," he concluded.
In the Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, chairwoman Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) called on the Ministry of Culture to increase the budget to support cultural works in Arabic.