Israeli City Ordered to Reverse Decision Barring Arabs From Community Service

State says mayor of Netivot must back down on illegal decision, but municipality denies the allegations.

Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel
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Netivot Mayor Yehiel Zohar, 2013
Netivot Mayor Yehiel Zohar, 2013Credit: Eyal Toueg
Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel

The state has ordered the mayor of the southern Israeli city of Netivot to reverse a decision barring Arabs from serving community service in various institutions, but the city's municipality denies allegations that it gave such an instruction.

After a similar instruction in the city of Ashkelon was reversed last week following widespread criticism, Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri instructed Netivot Mayor Yehiel Zohar to reverse an illegal instruction by that city.

Last week, Ashkelon's Mayor Itamar Shimoni decided to bar Arab construction workers from three kindergartens in the city during school hours, prompting outraged responses from across the Israeli political spectrum.

Following instructions from the Interior Ministry on the matter and criticism against his decision, both by the prime minister and by the attorney general, Shimoni reversed his decision.

Shimoni's decision barred the employment of workers, but in Netivot's case, the instructions bar Arabs serving court-mandated community service from working in several institutions.

The Netivot municipality said in response that the mayor never gave an instruction not to employ minorities: "The cemetery regularly employs minorities at taharah (ritual purity). Earlier this week the religious council requested the city to examine the option of transferring them from working at taharah to working at the mikveh, in light of recent events." The municipality said that eventually no change was implemented and no one was transferred.

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