Upper Nazareth Mayor Shimon Gapso has rejected a request to establish an Arab school in the city, claiming the request is “a provocative nationalist statement intended to disrupt the status quo.”
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel is working with a group of Arab residents from Nazareth Illit who are involved in a protracted struggle to establish an official educational institution in the city.
Twenty percent of the residents of Nazareth Illit are Arabic including 1,900 Arabic children of school age. Despite this, no appropriate public framework exists for them in the city. Having no choice in the matter, these residents turn to the Arab education system in neighboring Nazareth, or, because there is not sufficient space there, many of them are forced into the private education system, which involves considerable expense.
ACRI Attorney Ashraf Elias raised the topic with the Director General of the Ministry of Education and the Mayor of Nazareth Illit. In his appeal, he emphasized that the absence of educational services and formal schooling for Arab residents of Nazareth Illit, similar to those enjoyed by the Jewish residents of the city, constitutes a serious breach of the Ministry and Municipality’s duty to act equally for all of the city’s residents and that this infringes on the Arab residents’ right to education. It is worth noting that the law states, and the Courts have rules in the past, that local authorities and the state are obligated to ensure public education is accessible to all. In the past the Court has even forced a local authority to financially compensate students who had no choice but to turn to private education.
Shimon Gaspo, the Mayor of Nazareth Illit, expressed strong opposition to the establishment of such a school. “Nazareth Illit was founded to Judaize theGalilee. That was its purpose in those days, and that is its purpose still today” he wrote.
He also made clear in his response that setting up Arab schools in Nazareth Illit, like a Muslim cemetery or mosque, was not going to happen as long as he was mayor, and that he and most of the city’s residents will do everything to prevent changing the city’s character and losing its status as a Jewish enclave in the Galilee,
ACRI Attorney Auni Banna said “the mayor’s angry response reflects a dangerous approach, which not only objects to the existence of Arab schools in Nazareth Illit but also denies the legitimate existence of Arabs in the city. The parents’ demand to enable their children to go to school in the city they live in is a basic right, and no city or mayor may deny it.Upper Nazareth’s mayor and every Israeli mayor would do well to advance justice and equality among his city’s residents,” he said.
ACRI continues to the residents in their campaign.
To read ACRI’s letter (in Hebrew) to Nazareth Illit Mayor Gaspo, click here.
To read Mayor Gaspo’s letter in response (in Hebrew), click here.