In a private meeting yesterday with a Meretz member of the city council and her aide, deputy Jerusalem mayor Yitzhak Pindros allegedly said in jest that "at Haredi education we do not accept Sephardim, monkeys, Russians and Ethiopians." Pindros denies saying that and says that Laura Varton, the city council member, is "a liar and an anti-Semite."
The meeting between the two was set up when Varton asked Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat about a document she had prepared, aiming to counter the phenomenon of Sephardi girls being rejected at Haredi schools in the city. Barkat asked her to present the document to Pindros and hear his views on the matter.
The meeting included the aides of Pindros and Varton. All sides to the meeting say that the atmosphere was unpleasant, and each side blames the other for being rude and unwilling to listen.
During the meeting, Varton tried to present the document she had prepared, but Pindros, who was displeased by the fact that deputy mayor Yosef Alalo had not come to the meeting as planned, apparently refused to continue the meeting.
"I showed him the document and told him that it included four interesting proposals," Varton says.
"We began going through it and he said that it would take time and that it could not happen, and then he got angry and said, 'Well, it is true that we do not accept Sephardim, Ethiopians, Russians and monkeys.'
"I asked him whether that is what he had to say, and answered 'yes' and repeated the statement," Varton said.
"He was obviously kidding, but I didn't think it was a very good joke," she said.
Varton's aide, Clara Almog, kept minutes of the meeting and in her notes she wrote the following statement: "Pindros: We do not accept Sephardim, monkeys, Russians and Ethiopians, unless we are bribed."
Both felt that the tone of the statement was cynical.
Following this exchange the meeting came to an end, and Varton, upset, relayed the story to the secretary of Alalo, who confirmed to Haaretz the details of the meeting.
Of course, Pindros has a different version of events: "For every sentence I began in an effort to explain, she rolled her eyes in expression of disbelief. I told her 'if you do not want to hear me, then go. That is all."
"I told her: you do not want to hear that we do not accept, so there is nothing to say. That sentence was not said. Unequivocally, it was not said," Pindros said yesterday.
"The readers of Haaretz are not my constituency so I have no interest in even apologizing," Pindros told Haaretz in a different conversation. "She is a liar and an anti-Semite and I stand behind every word I am saying here. When a person wants to solve a problem and does not wish to listen to what I have to say, that is anti-Semitism. The fact is that we accept all the female students."
Pindros heads the United Torah Judaism faction in the city council, which is mayor Barkat's largest coalition partner, and is considered among the moderate leaders of the ultra-Orthodox community in Jerusalem. Pindros had been assailed, verbally and physically by extremist Haredim, who claimed that he allows Barkat to desecrate the Sabbath by allowing the opening of the Karta parking garage and Intel to operate on Saturday.
The problem with racism in the Haredi education system is a known fact, and Varton claims there are some 300 female pupils who are subjected to discrimination annually in the Haredi schools.
In the document presented to Barkat and Pindros, Varton proposes municipal legislation that would prevent parents from interfering in the acceptance process for pupils in schools. She says that this is one way in which the discrimination is put into effect.
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