Danny Adeno Abebe
"We don't take in Ethiopian children. We don't think you match our lifestyle and we're not sure about your Jewishness either." This is what five young girls of Ethiopian descent were told when they arrived with their parents at the "Or Chaya" school in Petah Tikva.
The girls were slated to begin the school year at the "Ner Etzion" school, which only had students of Ethiopian descent. The school was closed at the instruction of Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, following the parents' protest, and the five students were directed by the municipality to the "Or Chaya" school, which belongs to the Chabad movement.
The girls arrived at the institution accompanied by their parents, and were met by a person at the gate who took them aside and informed them that the school was not interested in taking in Ethiopian students.
The girls were forced to return shamefacedly to the municipality. The Education Department staff called the school and was surprised to receive the same answer: "You're welcome to lead us to the gallows. This has never happened and will never happen," a school official said.
The Petah Tikva Municipality filed a complaint with the Education Ministry against the school, and Minister Sa'ar instructed the ministry's director-general to summon the school principal, Nechama Dina Deitch for a hearing.
"We won’t tolerate these behavior toward children of Ethiopian descent," Petah Tikva Municipality spokesman Hezy Hakak said Wednesday.
In the meantime, a week after the start of the school year, the five students are still sitting at home. "They looked at her as if she were a monkey," said Molko Wanda, the father of a girl who was slated to begin the second grade at the "Or Chaya" school. "Do you know what it means telling a seven-year-old girl that she's not wanted for being black?"
Moshe Ashgara, the father of another girl, feels helpless too. "My daughter is a diligent student. Why won't they take her?"
Sixty-six of the "Ner Etzion" students have yet to be absorbed in an alternative educational institution. The municipality promised that a place would be found for all children within the next few days, and that a school refusing to take in students of Ethiopian descent would be punished.
The principal of "Or Chaya" school was unavailable for comment.