Jerusalem School District Rejects Israeli Parents’ Call to Ban Arab Bus Drivers

Education administration gets more than 30 requests from parents claiming that Arab bus drivers put their children at risk ■ Official says: 'This is not the way of Jerusalem'

Students walking to school in Jerusalem.
Olivier Fitoussi

The Jerusalem school district has rejected requests from parents to make sure that no Arab drivers from East Jerusalem are employed as school bus drivers in the 2018-19 school year, which begins September 1.

The Jerusalem Education Administration received over 30 requests demanding the cancellation of contracts with East Jerusalem bus companies. The parents argued that using East Jerusalem companies that hire Arab drivers puts their children at risk.

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The school district explained that the companies’ winning bids cannot be canceled and that in any event the city does not support race-based discrimination. In response, some parents threatened to appeal to Education Minister Naftali Bennett.

In an open letter Monday to all parents of children in city schools, Jerusalem Education Administration director Aviv Keinan was sharply critical of the parents’ demand.

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“We appeal to you as partners in building Jerusalem and in creating an egalitarian, fair and meaningful education system. We can no longer ignore the repeated phenomenon of parents’ requests regarding the [ethnic] origin of the transport drivers, which are in complete contradiction to that very education system that we aspire to lead,” said the letter, which was issued together with Arik Kaplan, chairman of the Jerusalem Parents Association. “Recently, a number of requests have been received by parents seeking to cancel tenders by transportation companies employing drivers from East Jerusalem. Needless to say, we are referring to transportation companies that employ drivers who meet the legal requirements for transporting pupils.”

In conclusion, Keinan wrote, “We want to make it unequivocally clear that these kinds of requests are inappropriate and do not reflect the values of the vast majority of Jerusalem residents, and we condemn them completely. This is not the way of Jerusalem, this is not the way of the Jerusalem municipality and this is not the way of the Jerusalem Parents Association. We ask you to be aware of such statements and to condemn them.”