Livni loves Ethiopian children_311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Knesset Education Committee chairman Alex Miller (Israel Beiteinu) called an
emergency meeting following a demonstration on Thursday of at least 300 families
from Petah Tikva’s Ethiopian immigrant community who refused to send their
children to school, angry over a government decision to partially close down the
community’s Nir Etzion school and prevent enrollment for first grade
“A school for Ethiopians only is unacceptable, ugly, and gives a
bad name to the entire education system,” Miller said. “The State of
Israel will not have Ethiopian concentration camps.”
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Miller pointed out
that in the Knesset’s previous session, legislation was passed forbidding
schools to discriminate against students based on their country of origin, and
called for “racist schools” to be “closed immediately, in order to allow
children to study with friends of all colors.”
The Education Committee
meeting has been called for next Wednesday.
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni
(Kadima) joined the protests in Petah Tikva, saying: “These children don’t have
time to wait until the system gives them the equality they deserve. Every
year, they don’t get what other children get, but this year it won’t happen
again. We cannot abandon these children.”
“Integration should apply to
all ages and not only certain grades,” said Daniel Fasil Uoria, head of the
United Ethiopians, the organization behind Thursday’s strike and day-long
Uoria said that the community wants the entire school closed
down and that parents would not send their children to school until an
alternative solution was found for these pupils.
“They will sit at home
until another solution is found for these children,” he said.
released by the Education Ministry said there was room for discussions with the
Petah Tikva municipality on the matter and that such dialog did not have a
Ziva Mekonen-Degu, executive director of the
Israel Association of Ethiopian Jews, told The Jerusalem Post
that the key to
solving the problem was for the Education Ministry to consult directly with
“We sent out a position paper six months ago advising
the ministry to consult with the local community about the situation before
deciding to close schools where there is a large percentage of Ethiopian
pupils,” she said, explaining that in areas such as Petah Tikva, where there are
neighborhoods with large numbers of Ethiopian immigrants, the school’s student
body has become almost 100 percent Ethiopian.
“The IAEJ does not feel
this is a problem; in places such as Kiryat Shmona or Dimona, there are schools
that are 90% Moroccan immigrants,” she pointed out. “We are against integration
for the sake of integration and believe that an investment in the school will
help the immigrant pupils succeed.”
Mekonen-Degu said that she was
shocked by the ministry’s decision to close the school only four days before the
academic year was set to begin.
“Parents have already bought equipment
for their children and prepared them for school. The ministry thinks that
the Ethiopian community is passive and will just do whatever it is told to but
we will not,” she said.
According to the IAEJ, Petah Tikva is not the
only place where the local school is slated to close. At least 17 schools and
kindergartens where there is a large number of Ethiopian pupils are likely to be
closed down in stages over the next few years with the goal of dispersing the
immigrant students to other schools nearby and improving integration.