TAU Student Signs Up 40 Lecturers to Petition for Arabic Signs on Campus

Petition receives broad support from both Jewish and Arab faculty members.

A Tel Aviv University student got 40 faculty members to sign a petition demanding that Arabic be added to signs on campus.

Yoel Hertz, who is working on his bachelor's in political science, submitted the petition to university president Joseph Klafter on July 14.

He received broad support from both Jewish and Arab faculty members, with 40 signatories from various departments, mainly history, Arabic and Islam, law and political science, he told Haaretz.

Hertz said he circulated the petition as part of a course assignment that instructed students to work toward a political goal.

"The course was on the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and I decided to focus on the status of Arabic. I wrote the letter and e-mailed it to 160 faculty members," he said.

Hertz said he was pleased that 40 faculty members signed. "There were two who criticized it, and the rest ignored it. I hope the university will rise to the challenge and make the move," he said.

Hertz said the university has not yet responded to the petition.

Arabic is an official language in Israel, but public and private institutions frequently neglect it in their documents and signage.

The issue has reached the High Court of Justice on more than one occasion, where rulings underscored the language's official status.

In his petition, Hertz cited legal and moral reasons for his call. He cited a High Court of Justice ruling from 2002 (Adallah and associates versus the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality and associates ), in which the court ruled that all municipalities in cities with mixed Jewish and Arab populations must have signs in Arabic, too.

Hertz noted that the university, located not far from Jaffa, serves the city's 16,000 Arab residents, and that 1,500 Arabs from around the country study there, making up 5 percent of the student body.

In terms of the moral aspect, Hertz wrote, "Adding Arabic to signs will promote equality between Jews and Arabs within the university community by expressing mutual respect and conveying a message of acceptance and tolerance to hundreds of students, workers and Arabic-speaking citizens who visit our campus every day."

Dr. Amal Jamal, of the Political Science Department, who signed the petition, said Arabic should find natural expression in public spaces, especially academic institutions, which should be leaders in promoting equality and multi-culturalism.

Moreover, Jamal said, many of the students speak Arabic or are studying it, and signage in that language would make Arab students feel more at home and help them overcome cultural alienation.