Following a two-day boycott of the Ner Etzion school in Petah Tikva by members of the city's Ethiopian immigrant community, who refused to let their children attend, the Education Ministry has decided to close the school immediately.
All but one of the children at the school is of Ethiopian background and the parents objected to what they called the "discrimination" against their children. On Friday only five students showed up for school and classes were not conducted.
Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar had originally decided to gradually reduce the school's operations and have the students from the school integrated in other area schools. The minister had proposed that no new incoming first-graders be admitted to the school, but at a meeting Friday with municipal officials and members of the Ethiopian community, it was decided to close the school immediately.
Education Ministry and city officials said the move will require flexibility on the part of the parents of the children as they are transferred to other Petah Tikva schools and to schools in neighboring communities.
City officials said all of the second-graders at Ner Etzion can be assigned to other Petah Tikva schools, but some third- and fourth-graders will have to be sent elsewhere. The parents will also be asked to agree to have their children attend nonreligious state schools rather than only considering options among religious schools.
Officials are inclined to leave fifth and sixth grade classes intact and have them transferred as a group to other schools so as not to disrupt their preparation for high school.
Speaking in Holon Saturday, Sa'ar said he would also withdraw state funds from any private schools that refused to admit children from the Ner Etzion school. He also said school districting would be adjusted to give priority to members of the Ethiopian community.
An Ethiopian community leader, Daniel Uria, who has led the effort to have the children reassigned, has insisted that the community will not simply accept the students' placements at other schools. "We will demand to get all of the lists," he said, "and will not accept 'Ethiopian quotas.' The parents will choose which schools their children attend." The Petah Tikva municipality said the city will attempt to reassign the 160 children who have not already been assigned elsewhere within two days.