Passover Shows for Kids Discriminate Against Arabs, Says Rights Group

NGO petitions High Court to order the Culture and Sports Ministry to explain why it had not planned free children's shows for 'all the children in the State of Israel.'

Staging free children's shows on Passover in predominantly Jewish areas discriminates against Arab children, according to a High Court of Justice petition filed on Monday on behalf of two 7-year-old Israeli Arab girls and the Arab rights organization Adalah.

The petitioners are asking the court to issue an interim injunction ordering the Culture and Sports Ministry to delay the government-funded shows scheduled to be performed in 110 predominantly Jewish cities and towns. The ministry refers to the shows collectively as "Operation Afikoman," after the piece of matza for which children traditionally search at the end of the Passover seder, which takes place Friday night.

Prime Minister Netanyahu visiting a Kiryat Shmona theater last week.
Gil Eliyahu

"Making a list of towns that excludes all the Arab towns in outlying areas constitutes an arbitrary decision that is not based on egalitarian criteria," states the petition, filed by Adalah lawyer Sawsan Zahar. "This distinction between the towns, which in turn leads to distinctions between Jewish children and Arab children, undermines the constitutional right to equality that is part of the constitutional right to dignity enshrined in the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom."

"The request for an interim injunction is necessary in light of the simple fact that implementing the program for a single population only, without without previous legislative authorization, infringes on the right to equality and is unconstitutional as long as the discrimination has not been remedied," the petition states.

The hundreds of thousands of Arab children in the country have school vacations at Passover time, just as Jewish children do, said Adalah. In addition, they said, Christian Arabs like the two girls from the Galilee town of Yafia who filed the petition are also celebrating a holiday: Easter.

The petitioners are also asking the High Court to order the Culture and Sports Ministry to explain why it had not planned free children's shows for "all the children in the State of Israel."

The ministry had previously told Adalah it was planning children's events specifically geared to the Arab population that would take place during another school vacation.

But Adalah said in its petition that those plans don't justify discrimination against Arab children during the Passover break.

"Children in Arab towns, including the two girls who filed the petition, have the right to enjoy high-quality, available, accessible and free entertainment options during their holiday breaks, just as children in Jewish towns do," it said. "These high-quality artistic entertainment options are very important for promoting the children's academic and educational achievement."