|Written by Keith Hall|
Challenging Racism on Jerusalem Buses
Earlier this week, the NIF-supported Tag Meir coalition organized a solidarity ride on a public bus following an outburst of racism the week before.
The incident started with a pair of teenagers singing racist chants. One of them spit his chewing gum at 12 Arab children travelling home from school.
Despite protests, the bus driver refused to get involved. After these culprits left the bus, some adult riders started to chant: "You don't have the right to live" and, "you should be ashamed to be human." A woman then pulled the hair of one of the children, and the driver finally demanded that the attackers leave the bus. They refused. The driver called the police.
The children were pupils at the NIF-affiliated Hand to Hand bilingual school in south Jerusalem. They have regularly been targeted with racist abuse while travelling to and from school, but this was the first time they had been physically attacked. Paz Cohen, Chair of the Parents' Committee, said, "adults who dare to attack children on a bus need to be punished severely. In recent times the phenomenon of racist and nationalist violence has got worse."
In response, and in coordination with the school, 20 members of the Tag Meir coalition, which responds to acts of hatred with acts of healing solidarity, organized the ride with the children on their way home from school, drawing coverage from the Israeli press. Seeing this action, a number of teenagers began to shout, swear, and to praise the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, an extremist far-right leader. This nearly brought two Arab sisters on the bus to tears. They told members of the coalition that they were afraid to speak Arabic on the bus. When the teenagers got off, the Arab students began distributing flyers that read: "Yes - we're allowed to be a different color. Yes - we're allowed to have a different religion. Yes - we're allowed to speak different languages with all sorts of accents. Yes - we have to ensure that all children can travel safely."
Before getting off the bus, the children thanked the activists: "You really helped us today, and we won't forget it."
The police investigation into the incident is ongoing.