Bilingual Arabic-Hebrew 1st-grade Class to Open in Jaffa

In compromise with parents, city will open the class in existing school, to be run by nonprofit Hand in Hand. Haifa parents also seek expansion of bilingual education.

Ilan Assayag

A group of parents seeking bilingual education in Jaffa has reached a compromise with the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality on opening a Hebrew-Arabic first-grade class during the next school year. The class will open at the Kiryat Hinuch Yaffo school (Ironi Zayin).

The compromise was reached after a public struggle and difficult negotiations with the municipality. At first the parents refused the latter’s suggestion that the class be opened in the existing school because both the city and the school ostensibly refused to discuss the special conditions required to establish such a class under such circumstances.

However, says Shuli Dichter, director of the Hand in Hand (Yad B'Yad) nonprofit association that operates bilingual schools throughout the country, “The parents got the impression from their contacts with the city over the past week that it had softened considerably in its approach to their demands. It succeeded in persuading the parents to register [their children] at Ironi Zayin, and to begin a dialogue about the conditions that would allow for bilingual education in the first or first and second grades. As a result of this understanding the parents agreed to sign their children up for the Ironi Zayin school.”

Hand in Hand’s official statement: “At the first stage an agreement was reached with the municipality and the school on the general principles of bilingual education, and as a result Hand in Hand will begin a process of discussions with the municipality, the Education Ministry and the school administration on additional conditions that will enable proper bilingual education in this framework. The association committed itself to preserve transparency and to inform the community [of interested parents] of the discussion process and its results, and we believe that it will be implemented in the best possible fashion.”

“After discussions between the municipality and representatives of the parents," the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality said in response, "the municipal proposal was accepted, under which a first grade in a special bilingual track will open in Kiryat Hinuch Yaffo, in which Jews and Arabs will study in equal numbers. The city welcomes the decision and the fruitful cooperation between the parents and the municipality.”

Meanwhile, Hand in Hand is also fighting to expand bilingual education in Haifa from the preschool level to both compulsory kindergarten and elementary school. The Haifa Municipality has requested permission from the Education Ministry to open a bilingual school, but has said that opening a bilingual kindergarten will only be possible after such a school is established, leaving interested parents with no Hebrew-Arabic framework for their children next year.