Adalah and ACRI Submit a Petition to Supreme Court Calling for the Establishment of Arab Schools in the Area of the Ramat HaNegev Regional Council


Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) submitted a petition to the Supreme Court today on behalf of the Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages, Parents’ Committees, and three Arab Bedouin residents of Beer Hadaj against the Minister of Education and the Regional Council of Ramat HaNegev.  Adalah attorney Marwan Dalal and ACRI attorney Dana Alexander, by the petition, called for the establishment of schools for Palestinian Arab children living within the jurisdiction of the Regional Council. 

The Ramat HaNegev Regional Council is comprised of five kibbutzim, seven moshavim, and several unrecognized Arab villages, including Beer Hadaj.  The Regional Council, as the municipal governing body of these Jewish settlements and Arab villages, is responsible for providing all basic services for its residents. Although there is a large number of Arab Palestinian children live within the jurisdiction of the Ramat HaNegev Regional Council, there are no Arab schools in the area, forcing the children to travel for  long distances to reach their kindergartens and schools.  Despite numerous letters and complaints over the years, no Minister of Education has required the Regional Council to establish Arab schools within a reasonable distance of the childrens’ homes, resulting in low registration and attendance rates for the Palestinian children. 

According to statistics gathered by community members, approximately 635 children, aged 3-18, live in the unrecognized Arab village of Beer Hadaj.  Ministry of Education data shows that during the 1999-2000 school year, only 420 children from Beer Hadaj registered for school.  Thus, a startling 34% of the children from Beer Hadaj do not attend school. 

The Ministry of Education provides transportation for the children of Beer Hadaj to two schools, located 32 km and 40 km away from their homes.  Of the seven school buses provided, only one enters the village; to reach the other six buses, the children must walk 4 km to unmarked bus stops along the highway.  Parents in Beer Hadaj are reluctant to send their children to these schools so far away from home. 

According to Attorneys Dalal and Alexander, the high drop out rate of Palestinian children from Beer Hadaj, particularly for girls, is a product of the lack of access to school. According to 1998 Ministry of Education data, 56 children from Beer Hadaj were registered for second grade, 29 of whom were girls.  However, only 13 children were registered for 8th grade, two of whom were girls.  It is apparent from this data that once the children learn the necessary basic skills of reading and writing, they no longer register for school due to its inaccessibility.  Further, registration statistics represent only a partial understanding of the problem; students are also often absent because of the difficulties of reaching school. 

Adalah and ACRI argue in the petition that the current situation is clearly and blatantly discriminatory against Palestinian Arab children living within the jurisdiction of the Ramat HaNegev Regional Council.  The Regional Council provides schools for the Jewish Israeli children living in the kibbutzim and moshavim within its jurisdiction, within a reasonable distance from their homes.  The failure of the Regional Council and the Ministry of Education to establish schools for Palestinian Arab children living within the jurisdiction of Ramat HaNegev violates the Compulsory Education Law and amounts to discrimination based on national belonging.  Furthermore, by its failure to establish schools for Palestinian children, the Minister and the Regional Council infringe on the children’s basic right to education, development, and participatory membership in society.

Adalah and ACRI, on behalf of the petitioners, seek a Court order requiring the Ministry and the Regional Council to establish an elementary school in Beer Hadaj, as well as other schools accessible to the rest of the Palestinian children living within the jurisdiction of the Ramat HaNegev Regional Council.  The petitioners also requested an immediate hearing on the case so that the problem can be remedied before the beginning of the 2000-01 school year.