Over the past year, hate crimes – including acts of violence – and intimidation have been on the rise. In this increasingly tense atmosphere, many Arabic speakers, afraid of being harassed, think twice before speaking Arabic in public.
But on Monday, a group of Jewish high schoolers worked to change that. As part of an effort to reinforce the city’s multi-cultural reality, the Jewish teens boarded Jerusalem’s light rail proudly – and loudly – speaking Arabic. The effort was spearheaded by the NIF-convened Tag Meir coalition together with Matach – the Center for Educational Technology (CET).
Around 150 students, teachers, and supporters boarded the light rail at 11 AM at the Jerusalem Municipality station, and rode it to the Mount Herzl station. During the journey they spoke only Arabic to one another and to the other passengers. The students also handed out Arabic phrasebooks and links to a website with different greetings in Arabic.
Among the participants was Druze college student and IDF veteran Tommy Hasson, who, earlier this year, was attacked by a gang of ten Jews in Jerusalem in January for speaking Arabic.
At the Mount Herzl station the group alighted and held a ceremony that included the singing of the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah.
Myriam Darmoni, Director of Civics and Shared Life Education at the CET, said, “Education is the answer to the worrying and growing phenomenon of hate crimes. Ahead of Lag B’Omer, we decided to light the fire of hope on the Jerusalem light rail. Together with teachers and students, we’ll help bring hearts together.”
Merav Livneh-Dill, Shatil’s Pluralism coordinator and member of the Tag Meir steering committee, stated that the event was designed to show that “We dare not leave Jerusalem’s public space in the hands of extremists. It was time for us to make our voices heard and to reclaim this space.”
Moving forward, Tag Meir is working to ensure that the annual Jerusalem Day Flag March avoids the Muslim Quarter in the Old City, so as to prevent the recurring spectacle of young men chanting anti-Muslim slogans in the wee hours of the morning in an Arab neighborhood.