It’s 2019 – and Jews and Arabs are segregated on busses
When the local bus to the Barzilai Hospital in the city of Ashkelon arrives at the hospital gates, something horrifying happens: private security guards board the bus, seek out the Arab passengers, and force them off to wait on the side of the road. The bus – now with Jews only – continues through to the hospital. Only once the bus completes the loop through the hospital campus, the Arab passengers are allowed back on.
We were appalled to learn of the bus segregation policy in Barzilai. That same day, we started an urgent campaign – thousands of citizens joined our call, and due to our pressure, this past Tuesday I met with the director of Barzilai Hospital to present the thousands of signatures of Zazim members against the ethnic separation.
Only thanks to the thousands of Zazim members who signed the petition, donated, and mobilized on the ground, the hospital management agreed to meet with us. During the meeting, they promised to re-evaluate racial segregation policies on buses driving through hospital grounds.
This is a great achievement, but it’s not enough. The policy still has not been cancelled, and we were shocked to hear the hospital director readily admit that racial profiling is a regular practice on hospital grounds, and that he continued to defend the policy of removing Palestinian commuters from the bus.
During our meeting, Hospital Director Dr. Levi was impressed by the wide-ranging mobilization by our Zazim community, and was surprised to hear witness testimony about how problematic the practice was. Despite this, Barzilai refuses to commit to stopping the segregation, instead blaming the Health Ministry and others.
We know that our pressure is working – we have already successfully opened up a direct line of communication with the hospital management – and now we need continue at full force – until we win.
This is not the first time that our community has effectively fought against racial segregation. One of our first campaigns was the winning fight against segregation of Arabs from Jews in hospital maternity wards, where we succeeded in establishing a training at the Meir hospital to ensure the creation of a safe, non-discriminatory and non-racist environment. Then too, it took time, hard work, and the inspiring mobilization of our community. Together with you, I am certain that we will succeed once again.
Members of Zazim standing in front of the Barzilai hospital entrance, holding a sign against Apartheid and first aid kits against racism: