Adalah Challenges State Discrimination in Funding of Passover/Easter Holiday Cultural Programs for Children

HCJ 2728/12, Adalah, et. al v. Ministry of Culture and Sport


(Haifa, Israel) On 2 April 2012, Adalah submitted a petition to the Supreme Court Israel against the Ministry of Culture and Sports demanding that it offer free cultural programs to all children - Jewish and Arab – during the Passover and Easter holidays. Adalah asked the Court to hold an urgent hearing to consider the issue, and to order the Ministry to apply its programs equally to all schools in the country.

The Israeli news media reported that the Ministry of Culture is producing a program called "Afikomen" for Jewish children during the upcoming holidays. The Ministry is funding the full cost of plays and cultural events for children in 110 Jewish towns in peripheral areas, outside of the big cities, but not one Arab town is included on the list. The program takes place during the Passover and Easter holiday; Arab schools are closed for spring vacation during the Easter holiday.

Adalah requested that the Supreme Court order the Ministry to put clear standards in place for the locations and the discounts offered. Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher filed the petition on behalf of two first-grade Arab students from Yafta Nazareth to also include Arab schools in the program.

Attorney Zaher argued in the petition that the Ministry held a similar program named 'The Miracle of Chanukah" in the winter, in which over 100,000 Jewish children participated. The winter program also did not include Arab children, despite the fact that it coincides with Arab schools' winter holidays. The exclusion of Arab students amounts to unacceptable discrimination between Arab and Jewish children, and violates the children's constitutional right to equality, Adalah argued.

In 1998, Adalah petitioned the Supreme Court to include Arab families in a food program offered by the Ministry of Social Welfare for Jewish families during the Passover holiday, which also falls during Easter. Then the Supreme Court issued a temporary injunction to include Arab families in the program.

Ms. Siwar Zaher-Assad, the mother of the two children who are petitioners in the case, stated that, "My children also deserve to see plays and cultural productions during the holiday vacation. These kinds of activities are enriching and entertaining for them at the same time. It is the Ministry's duty to take the initiative to offer this type of activity in Arab towns as well, the same way it does so in Jewish cities."

Case Citation: HCJ 2728/12, Adalah, et. al v. Ministry of Culture and Sport

See also: Ha'aretz, Passover shows for kids discriminate against Arabs, says rights group