(photo credit: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER)
The Education Ministry closed a haredi elementary school in Zichron Ya’acov for refusing to admit two Sephardi children.
The Zichron Gavriel school is the second school this week to be closed by the ministry on the grounds of discrimination.
The school management however denies accusations of discrimination and pointed to the fact that large numbers of pupils are Sephardi as evidence of a fair acceptance policy.
The parents of the two boys filed a complaint two months ago, saying their children were being refused acceptance to Zichron Gavriel .
The Education Ministry examined the claims and summoned the principal for a hearing and eventually instructed the principal to accept the two brothers, threatening the school with a cessation of funding if it did not comply.
The school did accept the children but a series of strikes was initiated by other parents of children in the school, and only the two children in question turned up for class, with the remaining pupils staying at home.
One such strike was staged on Tuesday and the ministry decided to close the school.
On Wednesday morning the school gates were locked shut by means of a metal chain by officials from the municipal authority and access to pupils and school staff alike was denied.
Attorney Ori Keidar, who is representing the Zichron Gavriel school, insisted there was no issue of discrimination in the school’s acceptance policy, and that the school’s initial refusal was based on concerns regarding the family in question.
Claims have been made that the parents of the Amar family use smartphones, something which in haredi society is frequently banned by the community’s rabbis, and the school had initially not wanted to accept the children on the grounds that the family did not fit the religious character of the school.
“The closure of this school is completely political,” said Keidar. “Almost half the pupils are Sephardi... and parents who took part in the strike are also Sephardi.
“Almost 200 schoolchildren came to school in the morning and were confronted by locked gates, it’s scandalous and we will appeal the closure to the courts.”
The issue of discrimination against Sephardi children in the haredi sector is a sensitive issue and has led to severe societal unrest following state intervention.
A girls school in the haredi city of Elad was closed down by the Education Ministry earlier this week for a discriminatory acceptance policy, and a similar incident in 2010 in the haredi settlement of Emmanuel led to mass haredi protests when the High Court of Justice intervened.