Tel Aviv Sending Israeli, Foreign Children to Separate Schools

Municipality to open four kindergartens in violation of usual policy of integrating migrant children in city schools; migrant workers' NGO says move illegal.

The Tel Aviv municipality will open four kindergartens in the city's Bitzaron neighborhood this morning - two for foreign workers' children and two for Israeli children. This violates the city's usual policy of integrating migrant children in its schools.

The move was condemned by the Hotline for Migrant Workers, which said it is illegal to separate children on the basis of nationality, race or legal status in Israel.

Ofer Vaknin

A municipal official said the foreign children, who live in the Neveh Sha'anan area, will use the Bitzaron kindergartens temporarily due to lack of space in their neighborhood.

Parent Anat Ben-Moshe said she was shocked and astonished by the children's separation, which she discovered when she came to city hall to register her daughter for kindergarten. At that point, an official told her there might not be room for her daughter in the Israeli kindergartens.

"When I asked why they don't mix the children, they said when the majority are foreign, there's a problem with the parents," she related. "As a parent, I now have to explain this separation to my daughter, which seems much more problematic."

"I come from a mixed school, Tel Nordau," she continued. "Children who grow up together never worry about each other's skin color or religion."

Attorney Yonatan Berman, of the Hotline for Migrant Workers, said that "if the children are being separated for being foreign, or for being asylum seekers, then it's illegal. The compulsory education law applies to everyone, and registration for kindergartens and schools shouldn't be on the basis of nationality, religion, race or legal status."

Until now, he added, Tel Aviv had set an admirable example of integrating foreign children in its education system.

The municipality said that separating the kindergartners "is a procedural matter. Four new kindergartens have been built in Bitzaron for its residents. Two of them that are not in use will serve as temporary kindergartens for foreign workers' children until kindergartens are opened for them in their own neighborhood of Neveh Sha'anan."