No Arabic Signs at Acre’s Multi-ethnic Theater Festival

Guests of the annual festival noticed that signs are only in Hebrew, in a city where about a third of the residents are Arabs. The Acre Municipality says city is 'a model of coexistence and nobody can lecture us on that’

An Arab-Israeli woman crossing walking past a sign for festival activities in Acre, Israel, September 26, 2018
Rami Shlush

The Acre Fringe Theater Festival, which is again taking place during the intermediate days of Sukkot, has avoided posting any signs in Arabic in a city where that language is the native tongue of a third of the population.

The signs directing the audience to events and schedules are written only in Hebrew, the same for the notices directing visitors to tours of the ancient city’s marketplace and alleyways.

Arabic has even disappeared from the old festival logo.

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MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint Lists) who lives in Acre, has fielded some complaints about the language issue along with fears that this has happened as a result of the recent passage of the nation-state law, “which changed the status of Arabic from an official language to one with a ‘special status’” - bypassing a onetime practice to translate all public information into that language.

A Hebrew-only sign at the Acre Festival, September 26, 2018.
rami shllush

Touma-Sliman said that she would speak to the municipality and the organizers and demand that they change the signs.

“Apparently the Acre Municipality and the mayor, Shimon Lankri, have begun to implement the nation-state law. Arabic, the language of a third of the Arab residents of the city, has ‘disappeared’ from all the festival signs, which could attest to two things: One, that Hebrew is the only relevant language in the city, and two, not to welcome Arab residents and visitors who are Israeli citizens.”

A Hebrew-only sign at the Acre Festival, September 26, 2018.
rami shllush

Touma-Sliman saw the Hebrew signs pointing out the marketplace as an attempt to get Jews interested in buying these assets from the city’s Arabs, who dominate these businesses. “Lankri has apparently forgotten that his job is to represent all the residents and not to try to Judaize the Old City at the expense of Acre’s Arab residents,” she said.

The municipality did not answer questions from Haaretz about the signs, but accused Touma-Sliman of trying to score political points.

“Acre is a model of coexistence and nobody can lecture us on that. Mayor Shimon Lankri received a certificate of appreciation from Rotary just last week. They wrote: ‘The mayor works tirelessly to place the human being in the center and to influence others to behave humanely, out of a pluralistic perspective in which he believes. He has been working for years to bring people together in Acre.’ The certificate testifies to the mayor’s activity in this area.”