Ban on Arabic in Jaffa Classroom Sparks Protests

Students question why teachers stop them from speaking Arabic, but don't do so when immigrant students speak Russian between themselves.

Dozens of students, parents and Jaffa residents staged a demonstration on Tuesday in front of Jaffa's Ironi Zayin high school, protesting a ruling from the principal that no Arabic be spoken in classrooms. They demanded that the principal, David Ben Zohar, rescind the order, and allow each pupil to speak the language of their choice.

Lessons in the secondary school's classes are conducted in Hebrew, but half of the pupils are Arabs. Pupils report that recently teachers have not allowed them to speak Arabic among themselves, and chastise them whenever they are heard doing so.

"It is very hard. There are things you don't understand in class, and you want to understand them, so you ask somebody," said one female pupil from the school. "But if your friend tells you in Arabic, the teacher yells at you."

Other students questioned why teachers were stopping them from speaking Arabic, but do not say anything when immigrant students speak Russian between themselves.

Protesters at Jaffa school
Moti Kimche

Ahmad Masharawi, a Tel Aviv-Jaffa council member who organized Tuesday's protest, called on the Education Ministry to update its rules and clarify that the principal's decision is impermissible.

Education Ministry officials said Tuesday that the situation with the Jaffa school is being reviewed, and that "there is no regulation barring the use of other languages in lessons."

The principal's response could not be obtained Tuesday.