Gays, Arabs, people with disabilities: Please move to the back of the bus

Ours is the start-up country. The beacon of democracy and liberalism in the Middle East. The land of history, culture, cutting-edge and pushing the limit.

And yet…

Over the last two weeks, we have seen our government take concrete legislative steps to reduce the freedom of three distinct minority groups. First, a law was passed, despite unanimous protest from families, academics and stakeholders, which directly discourages inclusive education and encourages the segregation of children with special educational needs.

Second, legislation was approved, which says that gay families in this country are not welcome to have children. Surrogacy is permitted, but only for heterosexual couples.

Finally, our government enshrined in law the Jewish nature of our state in a manner that conveys unambiguously that the Arab population, constituting upwards of 20% of our neighbors, are second-class citizens. Their language a second-class language.

This is juxtaposed with progress evident in many pockets in our society. At my own place of employment, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, our Autism Center has been working with university administration to open a program in the Fall to support university students with autism. Every year more Arabic appears on campus — on signs, office nameplates, and in logos. Our administration released a formal letter of protest regarding the surrogacy law.

Hebrew U is certainly not alone in espousing these ideals. I am then at a loss as to why our legislative system is dragging us backward while our society attempts to push us forward.

I believe in this country and the ideals upon which it was founded. I believe we have the potential to serve as a model for coexistence, to show the world that religion and open-mindedness, tradition and modernity, are not mutually exclusive. But we are failing. Our leaders are not leading, we are not raising our voices of dissent sufficiently and, as a result, we are moving in the wrong direction.

We must raise our voices in support of the LGBT community, in support of our Arab neighbors and in support of children with disabilities. We must unambiguously tell our Knesset members and our leadership that we will not accept anyone being placed in the back of the bus.

About the Author
Judah is Assistant Professor of Clinical Child Psychology and Special Education at the Seymour Fox School of Education at the Hebrew University. He chairs the graduate division of special education and directs the Autism Child and Family Lab.
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