A state-sponsored program to treat thousands of children, most of them in peripheral communities, to free theater plays over the Passover holiday completely excludes Arab communities.

The so-called "Afikoman project" is sponsored and financed by the Culture and Sports Ministry together with Tarbut L'Yisrael (Culture for Israel ), a subsidiary of the World Zionist Organization. Consisting of more than 200 plays and dance shows, the project "offers free entertainment alternatives over the Passover holiday that are both enjoyable and culturally enriching," said Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat.

The only non-Jewish community included in the project, which encompasses 110 communities, is the Circassian Kfar Kama in the Galilee.

A similar project held plays in some 90 Jewish communities during Hanukka.

"The Culture and Sports Ministry practices blatant discrimination against the Arab public, depriving it not only of free plays but of the cultural school activity it provides to Jewish schools," Ataf Muadi, head of the education committee in the Supreme Monitoring Committee for Arab Affairs in Israel, said on Wednesday.

"It's discrimination," said Haifa's Al-Midan Arab-language theater manager Riad Masarwah. "There's no other word for it. Are these children's parents not citizens?"

The ministry said the Passover and Hanukka schemes were "exclusive projects for Jewish holidays, sponsored to generate free quality entertainment over the holiday. Similarly, the festivals Tarbut L'Yisrael holds in Arab, Druze and Circassian communities are not offered to Jews. Eighteen festivals with dozens of free or low-priced shows were held in Druze and Circassian communities this year and a festival consisting of more than 80 shows for subsidized prices was held in dozens of Arab communities."