Palestinian students with Israelis who joined them on the dance floor on the beach. Image Credit: Courtesy: Abu Samra

Ramallah: Mohammad Abu Samra, the youngest known school principal in the history of Palestinian Territories, paid a huge price for dancing and allowing his pupils to dance with Israelis on the Jafa beach.

The 33-year-old Mohammad Abu Samra, principal of Al Salam Secondary School in the city of Qalqiliya, north of West Bank, was transferred after he organised a picnic for 45 pupils of grade 11 and 12 to the Jafa beach in Israel. The pupils are up in arms against the Ministry of Education’s decision to transfer the principal to a school more than 30km away from his home.

The students went on a strike and organised several processions within the premises of the Ministry of Education, demanding Abu Samra be reinstated. He said each student who went on the picnic had to provide a parental approval saying that they knew that their sons were heading to the beach that would have women visitors. “It is illogical and unfair for me to be punished,” he said.

Photos taken on the beach show some of the pupils with women in bikinis, which are considered a disgrace by the pupils’ families.

According to Abu Samra, the ministry, had sent a memo, encouraging schools to organise picnics to the 1948 areas. The Israeli authorities also granted the students and their supervisors visit permits, which usually expire at 7 pm.

Speaking to Gulf News, Abu Samra said the pupils were 17-20 years and it was difficult to control them on the beach. “It is true that in keeping with the regulations of the Ministry of Education the pupils were not allowed to swim, but how could I have controlled them once they were there?” he said.

Abu Samra said at sunset, as the Israeli permits were about to expire, he instructed his pupils to get ready to go back home. However, at the same time, a group of Israeli men and women preparing a dance floor with a DJ.

“On our way to the bus, my pupils were attracted to the music and I could not say no to them,” he said. “My pupils started dancing and I also joined them at the beginning to let them have fun,” he said, stressing that their dance had attracted some Israeli men and women to the beach.

“Those Israelis and a child joined us on the dance floor and I could not object or ask them to leave,” he said, adding that the dance lasted 10 to 20 minutes. “It was purely unintentional and that has affected my future,” he said.

“Volunteers shot a video and took a couple of still photos and forwarded them to the Palestinian Ministry of Education, with a complaint that the incident would imply that there was normalisation of ties with Israel and it exposed the young generation of Palestinians to Israel’s illicit code of conduct,” he said.

“I was thereafter given two choices: either be downgraded to the position of a teacher with a final warning or voluntarily seek transfer to a far-away school,” he said.

A pupil said the school supports the principal and that they will fight until Abu Samra returns to the institution. “Our principal did not commit any mistake. It was the Israelis who loved the way we danced and they came forward and shared the dance floor with us,” the pupil said.

A senior official from the Ministry of Education told Gulf News that Abu Samra should not have allowed his pupils to dance in the first place. The fact that some Israeli women shared the dance floor with the pupils further complicated the issue.

The official stressed that Abu Samra had committed several administrative mistakes during the outing. Although the picnic was licensed by the ministry, mixing with Israelis on the beach should not have been allowed, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“This issue has serious social and political ramifications and trips such as this should be planned and executed in a more conservative way,” the official added.