Haifa’s at Your Service – if You Speak Hebrew

Haifa takes pride in its Jewish-Arab coexistence, but non-Hebrew speakers still have trouble accessing information.

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
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A view of Haifa Bay, which is home to much of Israel’s heavy industry, including the Haifa Oil Refineries.
A view of Haifa Bay, which is home to much of Israel’s heavy industry, including the Haifa Oil Refineries.Credit: Moran Mayan
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

Haifa takes pride in its Jewish-Arab coexistence, but non-Hebrew speakers still have trouble accessing information.

In recent weeks, the city’s residents received information on their property taxes for 2015. The envelope contained two booklets: “Everything you need to know about property-tax collection,” presented in Hebrew, Russian and Arabic; and “Always at your service,” outlining the services the city provides to its residents, presented only in Hebrew.

Arabic-speaking residents said the city told them that the services pamphlet wasn’t published in that language. Shutafut-Sharakah, the Organizations for Shared, Democratic and Equal Society, has written City Hall, seeking to correct the matter.

In addition, the city’s call center has Arabic speakers, but the automatic system for directing calls does not have Arabic prompts.

Residents say that most of the advertising signs the city puts up are only in Hebrew, and even the new municipal sports stadium has signs only in Hebrew. Four pages on the city’s website have Arabic translations.

The city said it follows the law concerning Arabic publications and recognizes that most of Haifa’s Arab residents read and speak Hebrew.

”Within this framework the city is careful to publish in Arabic every relevant advertisement and announcement including the informational booklet on property taxes, cultural events and festivals, registration for educational institutions, benefits for residents and children, and street signs according to the need,” the city says.

As for the call center, the city says it provides service in Arabic and is now examining adding automatic instructions in Arabic. The city’s Internet site is being translated into Arabic and will be updated.

The city said it was the only Israeli city with a spokeswoman for the Arab community whose job is to make municipal information accessible to Arabic speakers.

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