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Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar lashed out yesterday at the three Petah Tikva private religious schools that refused the ministry's orders to admit students of Ethiopian origin without preconditions. Sa'ar's remarks came during a special Knesset Education Committee session on the affair. "We are today at the climax of a campaign for the image of the State of Israel," he said. "This is not an issue that deals with just three schools. For a long time the education system itself has been deceived, while [these schools] receive public funding."

"For years, racism has been brewing here without anyone interfering, and no one thought to contend with this phenomenon," he said.

Education Ministry Director General Shimshon Shoshani said that several weeks ago he met with the schools' parents' committee, principals and attorneys, and that "for three straight hours they explained why they cannot accept students of Ethiopian background. No one said 'We will accept Ethiopian students to our schools with open arms.'"

"The principals didn't come because they knew we'd ask if they will fund the immigrant students. It's more convenient to just send public relations people," he said. "What will happen if one school, which has 300 students, accepts nine immigrant students? This is educational hutzpah."