by Jonathan Cook, MiddleEastEye, March 24, 2016. Families threaten to pull children from Jaffa’s first mixed Arab-Jewish school, accusing Tel Aviv officials of breaking promises.
A young Jewish Israeli girl is taught Arabic by her Israeli Arab teacher in a bilingual school (Hand in Hand / Debbie Hill)
JAFFA, Israel – It is a rare scene: in a classroom on the southern outskirts of Tel Aviv, young Israeli children – Jewish and Palestinian – play and study together, casually chatting and joking in a mix of Hebrew and Arabic.
The opening of the first bilingual classrooms in Israel’s largest city was celebrated with great excitement by parents and teachers last September. It broke with a decades-old model of strict segregation between the country’s Jewish and Palestinian pupils.
Israel includes a large and often-overlooked minority of 1.7 million Palestinian citizens, a fifth of the population.
Only months into the educational experiment, however, the mood has soured. Hundreds of parents staged a protest in central Tel Aviv this month, chanting “All children are equal” and “We demand bilingual education.” Both Israeli Jews and Palestinian citizens of Israel who had sent their kids there turned out. They accuse the municipality and education ministry – both of which officially support the project – of betraying the ideals of bilingualism, and have threatened to pull their children out of the school.