An Israeli bus company has removed announcements in Arabic on its vehicles in Beersheba, following numerous complaints from Jewish residents in the southern Israeli city.
The Dan Bus Company recently inaugurated a new fleet of buses in Beersheba, which had announcement systems of bus stops in both Hebrew and Arabic.
Shortly after the launch, Jewish residents flooded Dan’s management with complaints about the Arabic on the buses, leading Dan to turn to the Ministry of Transportation, which then instructed the company to remove the announcements in Arabic, according to Channel 2.
The Transportation Ministry told Channel 2 that Arabic announcements will not be used on the buses until “uniform criteria” are developed for all public transportation.
The Transportation Ministry later said that the decision to remove the Arabic announcements from the new buses came at the request of Beersheba Mayor Ruvik Danilovich after Jewish residents complained to his office, rather than as a result of direct appeals by local citizens to Dan’s management.
Beersheba city hall told Channel 2: “In accordance with the response of the Transportation Ministry in regards to bilingual announcements, once they are implemented in all of Israel, they will also be implemented in the city of Beersheba.”
Despite comprising less than two percent of Beersheba’s population of 200,000, Arabic-speakers have a major presence in the city, which serves as a commercial and transportation hub for the over 100,000 Bedouin in the Negev. The city is the unofficial capital of the large southern desert region of Israel.
While many residents of the city defended the decision, Atta Abu Madiyam, the deputy mayor of Rahat, a Bedouin city of over 50,000 residents located around 12 miles from Beersheba, described the measure as an attack on coexistence in the Negev.
“This racist decision only undermines the coexistence that prevails in the Negev and in particular in Beersheba,” Abu Madiyam told Channel 2, adding that both Jews and Arabs will come out in protest if the decision is not reversed.