For Electronic Bus Stop Signs, Arab Speakers Must Wait Till August

Mixed Jewish and Arab cities are sometimes slow to receive Arabic signage.

A Tel Aviv bus stop with a solar-powered sign at right, 2015
Ofer Vaknin

The native language of about half the residents of Jaffa is Arabic, but that language is missing from the new electronic signs at the city’s bus stops.

The Transportation Ministry says Arabic will be included on the solar-powered signs all over the country by August. The signs show which buses are expected to arrive when.

“The Arabic language is one of the two official languages in the State of Israel,” said Ahmad Mashharawi, a former member of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa City Council and a Jaffa activist. “The Transportation Ministry is supposed to know the laws of Israel.”

At first the information appeared only in Hebrew, but English has been increasingly available. In other cities with a mixed Jewish and Arab population such as Haifa, the signs aren’t in Arabic either; Haifa residents recently protested.

In 2002, after a petition by rights group Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the High Court of Justice ordered five cities with a mixed Jewish and Arab population – Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Ramle, Lod, Acre and Upper Nazareth – to add signs in Arabic. Haifa was already on board.

As a result, the government put the signs up on main roads and in municipal facilities, with Arabic added to warning signs.

“Electronic and static signage at bus stops is the responsibility of the bus company operators and the Transportation Ministry,” the Tel Aviv municipality said.

“The city of Tel Aviv supports making services accessible to all residents of the city and visitors. Recently a new and advanced municipal website was launched in Hebrew, Arabic and English for the convenience of the city’s diverse population.”