It is one of the most emotive education stories to hit the Israeli media in a long time. There are 109 Ethiopian immigrants in Petah Tikva near Tel Aviv who don’t know where they are going to school when studies start tomorrow, because the local religious schools won’t take them.
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar today spoke of schools creating “ghetto” conditions in this report and video and opposition leader Tzipi Livni is on record saying that the schools “don’t act according to the basic principles of equality. Sa’ar has cut state funding to the schools, which are all semi-private meaning this constitutes a loss of 60% to 75% of their income.
In Petah Tikva, children and parents demonstrated, carrying signs saying “enough with discrimination,” “enough with racism,” and “since when do schools teach racism?” Ethiopian-born Kadima lawmaker Shlomo Molla has called on the Education Ministry to “complete the puzzle and take away the three racist schools’ licenses.”
What makes this such a strong story in the media is the fact that in an Israel of complex questions and political uncertainty this is a news item about what appears to be a clear-cut wrong which provokes the same response from almost everyone, pretty much regardless of political orientation.
However the schools claim that they are misunderstood and say that all immigrant students require extra assistance in school, and that Ethiopian students, who come from a very different educational culture, have a greater reliance on special educational methodologies and resources than others.
Claiming it is about manpower not racism, the schools said yesterday that they had reached a compromise agreement with the Petach Tikva municipality that would see them take a third of the pupils if personal Education Ministry-funded study programs were provided for each pupil. The rest of the students were to be placed in other local schools. Saar rejected this proposal, claiming that given special immigrant-only classes that some pupils would have ended up in are “a kind of small ghetto for pupils of a certain origin.”