The Education Ministry will not back down on its demand that all schools in Petah Tikva accept children of immigrants from Ethiopia, said the ministry's director-general, Shimshon Shoshani. He threatened the schools with sanctions if they do not come around.

Shoshani was referring to around 100 children who, 10 days before the opening of the school year, have not been accepted at Petah Tikva schools. Private religious schools in the city, which use a curriculum similar to the state religious system, say they refuse to accept the students assigned to them by the municipality unless they can first determine if the children suit the schools' character.

"We will not back down on our demands from the racist schools in Petah Tikva," Shoshani said at a conference for local authorities' education departments on the new school year.

Shoshani added that his office was in the process of making changes that would limit the number of new schools to open. The schools in question are formally recognized, though they are not part of the education system itself. The changes would affect the religious and ultra-Orthodox sector as well as so-called democratic schools.

Private schools such as the ones in Petah Tikva receive government and municipal funding. "The acceptance of children of Ethiopian descent is a key issue on the core level," Shoshani said. He added that he has met with the principals of the schools in question and conveyed the ministry's stance. The schools could be hit with sanctions if they refuse to comply.

The parents in Petah Tikva's parents' committee are threatening to keep their kids from school at the beginning of the new school year if immigrants are not evenly distributed among the city's schools.

The chairman of the city's forum of state-religious schools, Nir Orbach, said that "the city has taken significant steps," though a solution was not yet at hand.