Arab school project in Galilee debates

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Nof Hagalil has little to do with her neighbor Nazareth, with whom she has long been confused because of her old name, Nazareth Illit, “The Heights of Nazareth”. But where the narrow and winding streets of the biblical city give cold sweats to the phobics of the traffic jam, the wide roads flanked by new buildings and opulent houses give the air of an American suburb to this city, built in the 1950s for “Safeguard the Jewish character of Galilee”.

Nof Hagalil no longer wants to be confused with Nazareth

The town is going through an identity crisis. Because with his imposing Israeli flags on each roundabout, Nof Hagalil no longer wants to be confused with Nazareth, populated exclusively by Palestinians of Israeli nationality. ” Next Christmas will be the last when tourists on their way to Nazareth will fail in front of my office “, predicted the mayor, Ronen Plot, affiliated with Likoud (right), last year. It was before the local referendum in June that changed Nazareth Illit to Nof Hagalil, which means “View of Galilee”.

In this context, the Arab population of the city, 26% of the inhabitants, tries to resist. For years she has been calling for a school with a curriculum in the Arabic language. In November, nine families decided to go to the Supreme Court. Among them, Samah and Hani Salloum, a Christian couple who made this project a fight. “Symbolic, said the Palestinian computer engineer who, like his wife, works outside Nof Hagalil. If the project succeeds one day, our sons will have passed the age to benefit from it. “

“Our house is a hotel, we just sleep there! Our life is actually in Nazareth “, adds Samah. Returning from the United States in the early 2000s, the family sought to settle in the city of Christ. “There was no free land, or at too high a price, Hani Salloum remembers. We didn’t settle here by choice.

“Studying in your native language is a basic right”

Studying in your native language is a basic right that we want to uphold. Today, 3,000 Palestinian children are deprived of it. “said Samah Bsoul, spokesperson for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which, along with the Arab NGO Mossawa, is accompanying residents before high court.

In 2016, after an initial complaint before a local authority, the associations had given a chance to Ronen Plot, just elected, who had promised to act. But the months have passed. The town hall certainly sent a questionnaire to the families concerned to find out their wishes, but out of 1,100 mailings, only 75 responses came back to it. ” We would have liked families to be more cooperative ”, regrets Habib Odeh, one of the three elected Arabs in the city. Hani Salloum, for his part, contested the validity of the questions asked, redid a questionnaire and received 205 responses favorable to the school project.

Soon an example for the rest of the country?

However, this fight mobilizes little and, according to the Ministry of Education, 80% of Arab students in the city go to private schools. ” Is it necessary to make a public school if it remains empty? “, questions the municipality. Samah Bsoul hopes that the Supreme Court, by its decision, will one day make this city “ an example for the rest of the country “.

Until this distant horizon, the schoolless Palestinian children of Nof Hagalil are helped to pay for the bus to Nazareth. “We refuse to let our son say that his mother tongue is less important than Hebrew”, plead the Salloum. A reality, however, since the “nation-state law” which, in 2018, took away from Arabic its status as an official language.

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