Hundreds of thousands of Israeli Arabs from the Galilee in northern Israel will join their Jewish neighbors in enjoying a new fast train link to Tel Aviv, where jobs are in greater in supply, after a campaign by a civic equality group sought to ensure equal access for all.
The 90-minute Karmiel-Tel Aviv line will open next week, along with two new stations, at Karmiel in the northern Galilee and Ahihud in the western Galilee.
The area around these towns is heavily populated by Israeli Arabs, among whom unemployment is relatively high.
Last year, state comptroller Yosef Shapira slammed the government for what he called a “grim and alarming picture of the employment situation among Israel’s Arab population,” saying recent government efforts to integrate Arabs into the workforce were “broken, ineffective and deficient” and that “the goals set by the government to promote employment equality and promote integration of the Arab sector are not being met.”
Furthermore, the report found, the Arab community “suffers from ongoing discrimination.”
Following intervention by Sikkuy – the Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality, together with lawmaker Dov Khenin, a member of the Joint (Arab) List party and chairman of the Knesset’s subcommittee on public transportation, the Transportation Ministry announced the addition of bus lines and changes in the routes of existing lines to enable Arab citizens to reach the two new stations easily.
The ministry also pledged that all passengers boarding the train at Karmiel station and residents of 15 Arab villages boarding at Ahihud would get free train tickets for three months and a 50 percent discount on tickets for two years.
The 15 villages are Tamra, Aramshe, Shaab, Abu Snan, Jadida Makar, Arab El Naim, Kfar Yassif, Sheikh Danon, Yarka, Damida, Jules, Yirat, Majed al-Krum, Kaukab Abu al-Hija and Kabul.
“After decades in which Arab citizens were discriminated against in transportation services, the time has come for Israel Railways to be a means of transportation for all of us,” Sikkuy said in a statement.