Jerusalem-area Students Spark Controversy With KKK Costumes on Purim

Other students wear blackface and don Afro wigs to play the role of American blacks threatened by their white-hooded classmates.

Israeli high school students dressing up as KKK members for Purim 2014.
A Facebook photo of Israeli students dressing up as either KKK members or the black men they appear to be threatening.Mizbala

More than a dozen students at a Jewish high school near Jerusalem dressed up as members of the Ku Klux Klan for the Purim holiday, while others put on blackface and donned Afro wigs, apparently playing the role of American blacks threatened by the white-hooded Klansmen bearing a large wooden cross.

One of the students at Harel High School in Mevasseret Zion posted a photograph on Facebook of 17 teenagers dressed in the costumes for Purim, a Jewish holiday on which it is customary to dress up. Some supporters said the costumes were meant to part of a social protest.

The photo was "liked" by more than 100 people. While some commenters expressed their appreciation of the costumes by posting hearts, the photograph – which has made the rounds of Facebook and other websites – also sparked an outcry.

"There is no doubt that this is a shameful provocation that indicates insensitivity," Jerusalem Online quoted one online commenter as saying. Another commented on the original photograph: "Not funny."

Responding to the criticism, one of the teenagers said: "I have no regrets."

Harel principal Rina Even Tov said she saw no reason to reprimand the students.

“The costume was designed to create interesting and important discussions,” Jerusalem Online quoted her as saying. “This act essentially created a platform where discussion can exist."

Indicating that she would be permissive about even the most offensive costumes, Even Tov added: "There would be no difference if it was a Nazi costume.”

Some said the costumes were a form of social protest, presumably regarding the treatment of African asylum seekers in Israel.

"The group of young people shouted 'Stop with the racism,'" said an anonymous commenter on the Israeli website Mizbala, which reposted the picture. "It was done humorously and to protest the situation in Israel. I know this group of students, and this is a group of high-achieving students who decided to dress up creatively, while taking into account Israeli society."

Another anonymous commenter who also claimed to know the students said the costumes were part of "a social protest by young people who care."

One commenter, however, said she saw the teens walking with the cross and saw "no indication that it was a social protest."

"It was shameful and embarrassing to the point to the point where I was crying," the commenter said. "I'm sorry, but they chose a terrible way that caused me personally to feel sad, and in terms of their parents, I recommend that you think twice before you support something like this."