Councilman Sidelined in Bid to Integrate Petah Tikva School

Petah Tikva mayor strips head of municipality immigrant absorption office of his authority in light of his "lack of cooperation, faulty performance and rude behavior, which are unbecoming of an elected official."

At Petah Tikva's Gordon School Sunday, the third day of the school year, parents from outside the school district continued lifting their children over the fence in an attempt to get them into the institution.

On Sunday Mayor Yitzhak Ohayon sent a letter to the city councilman who heads the municipality's immigrant absorption office, Gennady Borshevsky of Yisrael Beiteinu, who is championing the cause of the parents.

Ohayon said he was stripping Borshevsky of his authority in light of his "lack of cooperation, faulty performance and rude behavior, which are unbecoming of an elected official."

In an effort to introduce more ethnic diversity into the school, most of whose students are the children of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, Gordon has limited the number of first graders from outside the district that it accepts.

Senior city officials say Borshevsky transferred enormous amounts of money from the municipal budget to the school in an effort to improve its image among the city's Russian immigrant population. Borshevsky does not deny the accusations. "It's none of their business where I put money," he said.

Borshevsky sent his own letter to Ohayon Sunday, copies of which went to Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar (Likud ) and two fellow Yisrael Beiteinu members: Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver and the chairman of the Knesset Education, Culture and Sports Committee, MK Alex Miller.

"The need for this school was born of the faulty conduct of the municipal education directorate, which behaved with insensitivity toward the immigrants," Borshevsky wrote. "All our actions [at the absorption office] were aimed at minimizing the damage and introducing social justice into the system. As immigrants we feel that you simply hate us, otherwise we have no rational explanation for all the years of abuse."

A number of parents have complained that their children were not admitted to the school. Some parents complained of police abuse at the school. Their comments were submitted to police internal investigations.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, municipal officials said that if the violence at the school recurs Monday the institution will be closed immediately.

The Education Ministry said in a statement: "The Petah Tikva municipality is requested not to close the school unilaterally. Its future will be discussed in the near future." The ministry said that only children living in the school district will be admitted.

Municipal officials are to meet with the Education Ministry director general Monday to discuss the situation at Gordon.

They will also discuss the enrollment at other schools of students from the city's Ner Etzion School. Sunday all the second graders from the school, whose students are overwhelmingly from Ethiopian immigrant householders, were enrolled at other schools.

At a meeting last night with municipal officials, parents reiterated their demand to close the school and put their children in other Petah Tikva schools.