Dan, an Israeli bus company which provides services around the country, stopped making Arabic-language announcements on its bus lines in the southern city of Be’er Sheva last week, following instructions from the city’s mayor, Ruvik Danilovich.
Dan Be’er Sheva won a tender in January of this year, replacing the Metro Dan company, much to the delight of many residents who repeatedly criticized the city’s poor public transportation. Dan’s new buses are outfitted with an automated PA system which can announce upcoming stations in both Hebrew and Arabic, thereby making public transportation more accessible to speakers of both languages. Tens of thousands of Arabic speakers live in Be’er Sheva, and the city serves as a metropolis to over 200,000 Arabic-speaking Bedouin residing in the surrounding areas. While Arabic is Israel’s second official language, following Dan’s completely yielding to pressure from Mayor Danilovich, station stops are now only announced to bus passengers in Hebrew.
According to the Ministry of Transportation, public buses must include station stops written in Arabic, but not verbal announcements.
Attorney Shada Amer of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) demanded that Minister of Transportation, Yisrael Katz, immediately reinstate Arab-language station announcements on all buses in the city. “There is no doubt that this decision is illegitimate and illegal, as it excludes an entire public from the public sphere and harms its basic right to equality,” Amer wrote. “The Ministry of Transportation must work to permanently remedy the situation and to bring back Arabic announcements in all bus lines in Be’er Sheva as well as in the rest of the country.”