The Supreme Court slammed the Education Ministry and the Eilat Municipality on
Thursday for trying to create a “separate-but-equal” school for the children of
migrants in Eilat.
Most of the children in question come from families
from South Sudan, Sudan and Eritrea. The court was addressing an appeal of an
August 2 Beersheba Administrative Court ruling.
Although the state could
not give a specific number of students, citing problems with locating parents
and that some families were only in Eilat on a transient basis, the numbers
mostly discussed with the justices ranged around 50 students.
said that it had tried to integrate migrant children and that it had been a
dismal failure. It also argued that it was not in the interest of a
high-school-age-migrant child whose academic level was equal to a fourth-grader,
to be put in high school for academic reasons, or in fourth grade for social
The state argued that the concept of the separate-but-equal school
is in the migrant’s interest, allowing the child to develop at his own pace, as
is sometimes done with new immigrants when they first arrive.
justices sitting on the panel expressed surprise that, with days to go before
school starts on Monday, the state was only now presenting this solution and
still seemed unsure about many details regarding the situation.
Salim Joubran and Ori Shoham reminded the state that it had managed to integrate Ethiopian students despite a public
outcry from some parents and officials.
Jourbran said that the State of
Israel in the 21st century had an obligation to do better.
He asked the
state, “Isn’t it your job as the Ministry of Education to improve weaker
students” like those in question in this case in order that they “become
stronger” students? Jourbran also cautioned that simply ignoring the problem now
was a failure to confront the issue seriously that would only broaden the
education gap over time.
Justice Yoram Danziger expressed disbelief that
a separate but equal solution would be accepted in other countries for a
particular ethnic group simply because there were difficulties with educational
He added that he personally – along with the other justices
– found it difficult to stomach such a solution.
The court ordered the
parties to meet immediately and to find a new compromise solution later on
Thursday or on Sunday.
Until now many of the children had been in an ad
hoc school run by a man named Israel Nahari. The school, which has closed, dealt
with kids ages five-17, split into only four separate levels and with no set
Nahari previously said that the students learned a lot of
Hebrew and math, with limited exposure to other subjects.
In a sense, the
old ad hoc school was more of a place for migrant parents – primarily working in
the hotels – to drop their children off and have them learn something, since the
municipality had done nothing to absorb them into its education
Ben Hartman contributed to this report.