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Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Toddlers not immune from discrimination in Israel

After Fathi's son had been attending a child daycare center for several days, the daycare worker telephoned him and said: "We have a problem with your son ... and after the other parents found out, some of them have removed their children from the center." She continued: "One of the daycare workers opened your son's bag and found out that he is called Arafat. She spoke about it with her relatives, who also have children in the center, and in response they removed their children from the center because there is an Arab child there."

The boy in question is indeed called Arafat. He is sixteen months old, and is the only child of Fathi Wahidi, a resident of the city of Ramle. Arafat does not have pneumonia, influenza or any other infectious disease, we are pleased to report. His only problem is that he is an Arab boy living in Israel.

His father Fathi is a single parent who works two separate jobs six days a week. He comes home for just three hours a day, after completing his shift as a nurse in a hospital and before going on to work as the foreman of a team of painters working for the Public Works Department. "There is no child daycare center for children of his age (approximately one year old) in my neighborhood. There are only centers for children from the age of two and above. I had to put him in a center because I work in two jobs. My mother lives with us but she cannot look after him because she is too old and frail. I want him to develop and explore the world. There are Arab centers in Ramle itself, but there is no transport arrangement to my neighborhood, neither public nor private. That's why I had to put him in a Jewish center."

Ramle is a city situated between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The city was occupied in the 1948 war by the Israeli army. Ramle was founded in the year 716 by the Islamic dynasty that ruled the country at the time. The city became an important economic, social and administrative center due to its position between Jaffa and Jerusalem and between Egypt and Syria. During the Nakba in 1948, 93 percent of the Arab residents of the city were expelled, and only some 1,300 Arabs remained. More