Within the framework of the “Safe Community” project the SDC implements activities every year, which aim to make people aware of their civil rights. One of these projects is the commemoration of International Children’s Day, during which the SDC works with Arab schools in Haifa, to provide children information about their rights in a playful way.
The participating schools included Carmel School, Saint John’s School, the Italian School, Sisters of Nazareth, Ahmadyya School and Saint John’s kindergarten.
One of the activities was reading stories based on key values of tolerance, solidarity, kindness, Puppet Theater and music, to display all about Children and their rights.
The second activity was the distribution of an activity book “Me and My Rights”, which included fun activities and coloring pages and stickers, which were all about the rights children are entitled to along with each page such as the right to housing, the right to security and so on.
The books were meant to convey the same message to children and to mature their knowledge of the subject in a simplified and fun manner, but nonetheless displayed the actual rights for their welfare and protection.
According to Faihaa Awad, director of educational projects as such at The Social Development Committee: “We maintained within the ‘Safe Community’ project activities focus on the ideology of accepting others by way of stories, to help children take in the true meaning and the message behind it using theater, body language, and visual interpretation. Stories are of utmost importance to children, for it passes on values and principles, and flourishes a child’s personality, as the child encases themselves in the story and takes on the role of the hero, it frees them of reality and extents of the world in which they live. We’ve gotten positive feedback from students and teachers, and feedback on the significance of such programs and the future possibility of more.”
We would like to extend our thanks and appreciation to all the school administrators and program coordinators for their cooperation, and to the shareholders for the “Me and My Rights” prints, in sponsorship with A.S.E Engineering under the management of Amir Eissawi and G.U.Y Computers director Anis Ghantoos
The Arab community in Haifa is part of Haifa, and its citizens are citizens of Haifa, but they are not able to take advantage of its facilities and resources which is injustice. Therefore we consider the municipal elections in Haifa as an opportunity to stand up against this injustice experienced by the majority of the Arab community. The Arab community is entitled to be a part of the city, to express their identity and opinions, in addition to acquire full municipal services, equal public resources, and being a part of the livelihood of the city and the resources it provides its inhabitants.
These rights are ones we’re entitled to, they are not privileges. We aim to obtain our personal and social rights via the elections.
During several meetings and gatherings since December 2017 with activists and community members, the SDC made a list of demands which will be presented to mayoral candidates who will participate in the local elections on the 30 of October 2018.
The list has been composed according the challenges and needs of the Arab community in Haifa after discussions during these meetings with all stakeholders and using the experiences of the SDC who is facing the challenges the community has on a daily base. It will be used as a tool to make all mayoral candidates aware of the challenges of our community, so that can no longer neglect the Arab community and take into account the needs and rights of this community.
The list is divided into different types of demands and answers the several challenges the Arab community face such as:
Demands for Citizen rights
The right to fair distribution and equal services for all groups based on equality as Haifa is a shared city for all communities and groups, and not, as it is nowadays, less budgets and services in the Arab communities.
The rights to express their own culture, identity and language which must be respected by the local institutions.
The right to organize our own organizations, associations and institutions that present our community not only as civilians and people, but also as an official ethnic group. The municipality must recognize this right and treat it with respect and not use discriminatory and unfair policies.
The Arab community in Haifa consists of some 33,000 residents, some 12% of the total population of Haifa. Most of those individuals reside in ten neighborhoods. These traditionally Arab areas suffer from severe neglect including insufficient infrastructure, poorly maintained housing and restrictions on property ownership. Most housing is administered by government housing companies such as Amidar; Amidar is responsible for maintenance and renovations however they often fail to fulfill their legal obligations. This results in substandard living conditions for many of Haifa’s Arab residents. For many reasons, including challenges in obtaining financing from banks, many Arab citizens are virtually pushed out of the housing market. Simultaneously, many of these old and historic neighborhoods are slated for re-development and gentrification by the Haifa municipality making housing prices prohibitively expensive for the traditionally Arab residents of these areas.
The right of information. The Arab community demands that the municipality will informed and include the Arab community in urban planning processes which will have an impact on the life of Arab citizens , so they have a voice in their own future.
We demand the mayoral candidates to create solutions for the severe housing crisis among Arab youngsters by designing construction projects and building service facilities for young Arab couples, which will encourage young couples to stay in the area.
We demand for enabling our community, especially in old neighborhoods, to attain housing payments to renovate apartments in old buildings and to improve the living conditions of the original owners, as well as giving the original owners the ability to seize the property back to ownership from governmental housing companies.
We demand from the municipality to renovate historical buildings and placing them under the management of our community, such as cultural centers and clubs as needed.
We demand building projects which will benefit the old neighborhoods of Haifa, and to open opportunities for more building projects and renovations.
Demands for Equal municipal Budgets:
The Arab community of Haifa is 13 % of the entire population in Haifa. As such they should receive at least 13 % of the municipal budgets to receive services and to improve infrastructure and so on. In reality the budget allocated to the Arab community is about 5 % of the municipal annual budget. This results in almost no services for the Arab senior citizens, hardly any communal Center sufficient for the Arab neighborhoods, underdeveloped public transport and so on.
Therefore our demands are:
Equal allocation of budgets and public services for the Arab community, as is for the Jewish society, in accordance with the idea of a multicultural Haifa
Proper representation of the Arab community, proportional to our population, in municipal roles, decision making positions and from institutions funded by the government/municipality
Granting jobs to Arab workers and providing opportunities to work and be staff members in municipal institutions.
The establishment of new fully funded organizations and community centers in Arab neighborhoods, which goal is to organize projects for the youth which will give them something to do and prevent them for being out in the street and get into trouble.
Demands for Advanced Infrastructure:
Since 1948, no real renovation has been done in the old, historical Arab neighborhoods.
Also since then, the infrastructure such as sewage and water, streets and so on, haven’t been renewed. There are hardly green spaces in the Arab neighborhoods, and many houses are on the verge of collapse.
Budgets from the municipality for renewing and developing old Arab infrastructure in neighborhoods, as well as land networks (sewage and water), streets, stairways and alleys.
Budgets to treat old historical houses as historical monuments and to renovate them, as many of them are collapsing.
Budgets to renew green spaces, such as neglected parks and gardens, continue to maintain them and open them for the public. The available neglected open spaces in the neighborhoods can become new green spaces and/or public parks, so citizens of the Arab neighborhoods have a space to escape the crowdedness of their neighborhoods.
Demands for improved Education:
In Haifa we have some twelve Arab schools, who receive Muslim and Christian students.
We make a difference between governmental schools and private schools.
In Haifa 73% of Arab students in Haifa are enrolled in private Christian schools; opposite 27 % of Arab students are in the governmental schools. The reason for the majority of students go to private schools is because the governmental schools are under budgeted, classes are overcrowded and the education the children receive is not of a high quality. Therefore most of the students go to Christian schools, which are governed by religious institutions such as the Church. But this requires a large financial contribution from the parents. Also the private schools underwent large budget cuts, against which were many protests some years ago.
The Hawar School in Wadi Nisnas demands since years, improvement of their school building as currently it is insufficient and even dangerous to receive their students.
Our demands concerning education are:
Adequate education for our students which is free of charge, improvement of governmental schools, higher budgets.
Providing financial and occupational aid to public schools to raise the educational acquirement of our next generations
Developing the building of The Public School of Hawar in Haifa, expanding its premises and field to accommodate development, and supporting the school especially since it has achieved a lot of success in performance.