For second time, Israel fails to abide by court order to bus Bedouin kids to preschool

3- and 4-year-old kids from unrecognized Bedouin villages in southern desert region still unable to attend preschools as Israel fails to provide transportation despite court ruling.

For the second time since December 2017, Israel has failed to abide by a court order to provide school buses for Bedouin preschool children in the country’s southern Naqab (Negev) desert region.


Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel sent a letter on 13 February 2018 to the Ministry of Education and to the Neve Midbar and Al-Qasoum Regional councils demanding they honor the commitment they made to the court to bus children aged 3-4 from the unrecognized villages in the Naqab to preschools. 


Preschool children in the Naqab Bedouin village of Al-Sira prepare to board a school bus during the brief period between March and June 2017 when the Education Ministry provided school transportation. (Photo by Khalil Al-Amor)


On 10 January 2018, a hearing was held at Be’er Sheva Administrative Court regarding a second administrative petition filed by Adalah in which it demanded that the Ministry of Education and the above regional councils fulfill their obligation to arrange a system of transportation for Bedouin children, including the residents of the village of Al-Jaraf.


Following the hearing, a notice was submitted to the court on behalf of the Ministry of Education and the regional councils stating that transportation services would immediately be provided to the children of the petitioners, residents of the villages of Al-Sira and Al-Jaraf, and concurrently to the other affected children. 


It was agreed that Al-Qasoum and Neve Midbar Regional Councils would transfer lists of children living in the unrecognized villages to the Ministry of Education within 10 days. The ministry would then begin transferring the necessary funds to the regional councils in order to activate the transportation services. This agreement between the Ministry of Education and the regional councils was given the status of a court ruling.


Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher indicted in her letter that, even though it was made in court, the authorities in question have reneged on their commitment: 


“We found that, apart from providing transport for two days to the children of the village of Al-Jaraf, these children do not have a means of transportation to their preschools. Moreover, as you yourselves told the court, approval of the transportation system must also include the children of [other unrecognized] villages that were not part of the petition. The problem of transportation does not only involve one or two villages in the Naqab, but affects most of the unrecognized villages in the region, as well as those villages that have been recognized but are still in the planning stages. Hence, thousands of children aged 3-4 in the Naqab are being harmed by your decision,” Zaher wrote in Adalah’s letter. 


Adalah also noted that the children of another village, Umm Namila, have no transportation to preschools. In light of this fact, a representative of the village attended the hearing and forwarded a list of the children to a representative of the Ministry of Education, who agreed that the local council would subsidize the children’s transportation. Despite this, and more than a month after the hearing, the children of Umm Namila are still not able to access preschools.


Attorney Zaher noted that the commitment given at the previous hearing is the second one given in the context of legal proceedings that is not being implemented: “It is unnecessary to describe the tremendous damage caused to Bedouin children at such an early age due to their lack of preschool education, which is the result – in most cases – of your not living up to your commitment."


In light of the above, Adalah demanded that the Ministry of Education and the regional councils immediately organize transportation from the villages of Al-Jaraf and Umm Namila for preschool children, and that they provide an update on the provision of transportation for the other unrecognized villages.