Israeli state authorities commit to funding school bus stops for Bedouin schoolkids

Hundreds of Bedouin children have for years faced serious safety hazards on their daily journeys to and from school; Adalah won't withdraw petition until concrete construction schedule is set.

Following a protracted legal battle led by Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, the state has agreed to fund the construction of school bus stops for Bedouin children in the southern Naqab (Negev) desert region.


The school bus stops will be built in the Neve Midbar and Al-Qasoum Regional Councils, adjacent to 47 schools – including 10 high schools, 37 elementary schools, and four planned schools that are not yet operational – significantly more than the 11 schools included in Adalah's initial petition.


In January 2017, Adalah Attorney Muna Haddad filed a petition in Be'er Sheva District Court calling on the Neve Midbar and Al-Qasoum Regional Councils and the Education Ministry to build school bus stops for schoolchildren living in Bedouin villages in the Naqab.


The construction of the new school bus stops, to be conducted by the local councils, will benefit hundreds of Bedouin schoolchildren across the region who now face a string of safety hazards on their daily journeys to and from school.


Adalah filed the petition on behalf of parents of schoolchildren from the unrecognized villages of Al-Zarnouq and Wadi al-Na’am, and the recognized but not fully-planned villages of Abu Tlul, Abu Qrinat, Umm Batin, and Kuhleh.


Adalah also demanded in its petition that the state remedy associated safety hazards such as missing guard rails, road signs, and marked crosswalks.


Upon announcing Tuesday, 1 May 2018, its intention to fund the new school bus stops, state authorities called on Adalah to withdraw its petition.


Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher welcomed the state's decision but noted that she insists on keeping the petition pending until the state produces a clear timeline for implementation of its commitment to build the new school bus stops. Adalah is also demanding court expenses.


In response, Be'er Sheva District Court this morning subsequently granted state authorities 14 days to produce a construction schedule and to respond to Adalah's request for compensation for court expenses.


"We welcome the state's announcement obligating to finance the construction of bus stops adjacent to educational facilities in the Neve Midbar and Al-Qasoum Regional Councils. However, the state did not include a schedule for the construction of the bus stops and it’s a pity that such an important demand to prioritize safety for children can be achieved only after initiating legal processes against the state and regional councils," Attorney Zaher said Wednesday morning.


"The fact that Article 3 of the state's announcement specifies that the dates of payment and fund transfers will be agreed upon with relevant local council authorities leaves a wide and unclear time frame for implementation of the state's obligations," Attorney Zaher wrote to the court Wednesday morning.


Petitioner Sheikh Salman Abu Qarinat, a father of school-age children in the Naqab, also responded Wednesday to the state's announcement:


"For years, our children have suffered from unsafe conditions when traveling to and from school and waiting for school buses. The situation is very dangerous and has resulted in numerous accidents in the Bedouin communities. We finally decided to put an end to this and went to the court together with Adalah. Following multiple hearings, we received today's news with great joy. We give big thanks to Adalah for all their efforts and for this achievement and for what it gives to our children and their safety."