'No one will call them a dirty Russian'
90 percent of the students at the Johanna Jabotinsky High School near Be'er Yaakov are either immigrants from the former Soviet Union or the Israeli-born children of Soviet immigrants.
Some 90 percent of the students at the Johanna Jabotinsky High School near Be'er Yaakov are either immigrants from the former Soviet Union or the Israeli-born children of Soviet immigrants. The school takes in students from many towns, including Bat Yam, Rishon Letzion and Ashdod, because "here, no one will call them a dirty Russian," said principal Mila Spivak.
Spivak, herself an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, said that Russian speakers - even if they were born in Israel, and all the more so if they were born abroad - "are still not accepted in general society. And because they can't show their true self, they're afraid. These children are looking for places where they can be among equals rather than anomalies."
Spivak herself is an immigrant success story: She is the first immigrant from the massive wave that who arrived in the 1990s to become a school principal. And her school's drawing power is due not only to the lack of acceptance at other schools: It also offers particularly strong math and science studies, which appeals to Russian immigrant parents uncomfortable with what they see as the deficiencies of the regular Israeli schools, from too few classroom hours to poor-quality teachers. About half the teachers at Spivak's school are immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
"I don't think my students would manage to integrate into the regular schools," she said. "Here they get a spine, and enter Israeli society stronger. Our students serve in all army units and integrate completely into the Israeli economy. They don't feel that they studied in a 'Russian ghetto.'"
As for schools with high proportions of Ethiopian immigrants, the Education Ministry said its ability to deal with this phenomenon is limited: These immigrants tend to live in the same neighborhoods and to prefer religious schools, meaning they naturally funnel into a small number of institutions. Since the High Court of Justice banned quotas for Ethiopian students a few years ago, the ministry can no longer cap the number of Ethiopians who attend a given school, it said.
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