The “only democracy in the Middle East”™ is looking a little peaked these days as racism rears its ugly head in Rishon LeZion, which has a sizable population of Ethiopian Jews. There are ten local ganim that enroll young children ages 4-6, the problem being that the “white” Jews want nothing to do with classes that contain Ethiopian children. So reports Maariv:
Because of the refusal of native Israeli parents to enroll their children in schools containing Ethiopians, there are three schools containing only Ethiopian children and in the remaining seven are only children of “Israeli” parents.
A municipal official notes that the native Israeli parents engage in various forms of subterfuge to “work” the system: they submit false addresses and enroll in religious, or even special education schools “just so they will not study with Ethiopians.”
What is tragic about this situation is that the community as a whole suffers from long years of neglect and abject poverty. All the families suffer from this, not just the Ethiopians. So it’s hard to see just what the natives are protecting themselves from, since they are in as bad a situation as those they seek to avoid.
The town’s mayor says:
To my regret the Israeli public is not mature enough to accept the other. People adopt stereotypes which cause Ethiopian children to be ostracized from society.
A senior town official calls this a “pedagogical disaster” because it means the Ethiopian children will have no experience of a “sabra” culture until they reach first grade. Their identity till then will be precisely the same as their parents. They reach elementary school speaking Hebrew poorly if at all and are ill-suited to learn to read or write either.
The municipality intends to break this cycle next year by encouraging Ethiopian parents to register their children at pre-schools outside their neighborhood to circumvent the segregation issue.
H/t to Sol Salbe.
Richard, bad as ‘Jim Crow’ is, some things are worse, far worse. Like the genocidal incitement engaged in by this high-ranking Lubavitcher rabbi: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1091469.html
On the ‘Jim Crow’ front (a term that might need explaining to any non-US readers?) the fact that the Maariv reporter speaks about Ethiopian children versus “Israeli” children when surely the “Ethiopian” children are just as “Israeli” as the others means that he/she and their editors there have yet to be able to figure out a decent language in which to be able to even think about or frame this issue? Maybe something like “Ethiopian-Israeli” children and “Less-black Israeli” children?
Ah, but then the editors might have to do some hard examination of their own beliefs and practices: How do THEY think about skin-color issues within their society? And how many of them are indeed, themselves, dark-complected Israelis?
Richard Silverstein says
Helena: I’ve written 3 posts here about the beloved Rabbi Friedman, a true boon to humanity.
As for the boorishness and unconscious racism implied in the phrasing of this story, you’re right. On the one hand, it is true that it is important for their future success that these children become fluent in Hebrew and other Israeli cultural influences. But on the other, there is an unstated implication that the ways of their Ethiopian parents are somehow backwards & must be escaped from. That makes me uncomfortable.
Israel has always placed tremendous pressure on immigrants to lose their ethnicity and separateness as quickly as possible in order to fade into the Israeli melting pot.