The long and winding road for Palestinian educational equity in Israeli schools

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Road signs directing to Nazareth and Nof Hagalil (credit: Wikimedia)
Palestinian students are forced to leave the mixed Israeli city of Nof Hagalil to attend school in nearby Nazareth because local schools refuse to accommodate Arab students.

By Dr. Reem Khamis-Dakwar | Mondoweiss | October 27, 2021

For over 20 years now, Arab residents of Nof Hagalil have demanded the establishment of a local Arab school.

Nazareth Illit (literally translating to “upper Nazareth”) is the former name of a city built upon the hills overlooking my hometown. Like the very establishment of the Israeli state nine years prior, Nazareth Illit was founded in 1956 upon land confiscated from Palestinians in an effort to “Judaize the Galilee.” In 2019, the city was renamed Nof Hagalil in order to further disconnect it from Nazareth, the largest Arab city in the ‘48 territories. The intention of this performative gesture was clear; Nof Hagalil, formerly Nazareth Illit, is a Jewish city regardless of how many Arab citizens may now live there. After all, the city became one of few promising sites for Arab couples to relocate given the structural racism affecting the growth of Arab towns which Human Rights Watch has reported “stifles the community’s growth and undermines its well-being while promoting the development of a Jewish majority city next to it.

As newly weds caring for our first born son at the turn of the century, my family at that time were among these very couples. We lived in Nazareth Illit because it was the only feasible option for us given that we had no interest in investing the time necessary to build a home, if we were to even find a suitable plot of land in a welcoming community. We were simply seeking a place to park our car where there were communal green spaces through which we could take our son for walks, and access to playgrounds where he could play. Unlike the city fittingly below it geographically, Nazareth Illit offered all of these desires. However, there is one catch to living in Nof Hagalil as a Palestinian; there is seemingly a problem of disappearing children.

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