Gideon Saar at UNESCO 311.
(photo credit: Education Ministry)
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar (Likud) dedicated the first state religious
educational institution in Jaffa in decades, at a Hanukka ceremony at the Yafeh
Nof school on Wednesday evening.
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, Tel Aviv
Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and Rabbi Yehuda Salah, the chief rabbi of the
city’s Ethiopian community, also attended the ceremony.
took place before a crowd of parents and young children, still full of holiday
doughnuts and cotton candy from the mini-carnival held outside Yafeh Nof, which
opened in September, in the heart of Lev Yafo, one of the poorest, most
crime-ridden neighborhoods in the mixed Arab-Jewish city.
director of the Torani Garin in Jaffa, 26, originally from Kochav Yair, has
lived in Jaffa for four years and sees the school as a crucial step in
“strengthening the local Jewish population.” A Torani Garin is a group of
Orthodox Zionist individuals and families who try to effect social and religious
development in underdeveloped communities.
“The school is meaningful
because it gives Jewish families the possibility to give their children a Jewish
education in Jaffa. Before this school opened, all the other schools in the
neighborhood were mixed,” Granak said. “It’s a way of preserving the
Jewish population in Jaffa by giving them a place for Jewish
Granak said that about 70 percent of the parents were not
religious, but were looking for a place where their children could learn “basic
Jewish values” in a non-mixed environment. Twenty-five years ago there were
seven state religious schools in Jaffa, but they closed one by one, he
“Today, all of the state schools in this area are mixed Arab and
Jewish, and people are looking for a Jewish education and we give them that
answer,” he said.
Granak estimated that around 70% of the families in the
neighborhood were on welfare, which he also said had the highest level of crime
in Tel Aviv-Jaffa.
The movement of national-religious families and
yeshivas into the area has been a controversial issue in Jaffa and other mixed
cities such as Acre and Lod in recent years.
Arab activists, politicians
and residents have repeatedly complained that the new arrivals are looking to
“Judaize” the mixed cities at the expense of the Arab
According to Granak, most of the neighborhood’s Jewish and
Arab residents support Yafeh Nof, and “the only ones against it are maybe some
politicians who see a political bone to pick with it.”
Sasi, 30, said the school gives parents an opportunity that didn’t exist
previously in Jaffa in recent years.
Sasi, who is originally from Bnei
Brak and has lived in Jaffa for two years, said the school has only firstand
second-grade classes, with a total of 35 children. The goal is to have hundreds
of students enrolled within a few years.
“Until today, those who wanted
to send their kids to such a school would have had to leave Jaffa, for Bat Yam,
or outside the Tel Aviv area. But with the increase of the religious population
in Jaffa, this school gives them an answer to their needs,” Sasi
Parent Dana Levy said she was “completely secular” but enrolled her
seven-year-old daughter Agam because “all the other schools in this area are
with kushim [blacks, a reference to African migrants] and Arabs. It’s not just a
problem of violence, they’re very racist, they hate us.”
She added that
her daughter was previously enrolled in a private national-religious elementary
school in the neighborhood opened by the garin and she saw a marked improvement
in her behavior and ability to concentrate.
“Here you feel the [Jewish]
holidays and they learn basic values and how to behave right,” Levy said.