Divorced Israeli Dads Barred From Hosting Visiting U.S. Pupils

The Pressman Academy of Los Angeles demands its students stay only with mothers while participating in an exchange program.

The first day of school in Pisgat Ze'ev, August 31, 2016.
Emil Salman

The parents of pupils at a Tel Aviv elementary school were surprised to discover a rule for hosting students from the Pressman Academy of Los Angeles who are taking part in an exchange program - that in cases of divorced households, the guests may only stay at the homes of the Israeli students’ mothers.

In the latest leg of the exchange program, which has existed for 20 years, a few dozen students from Los Angeles are scheduled to visit the Magen elementary school for 10 days at the end of April.

A divorced father whose child is enrolled in the Tel Aviv school said he was told the rule was made at the request of the visiting school. When he asked whether the school would agree to exclude other groups of people, such as single mothers, the reply was: “Of course not.” According to the father, the measure “is an inappropriate act, not educational, unfair and mostly saddening and outrageous.”

The Tel Aviv municipality said the purpose of the rule  was to avoid making a visiting child have to split their time between two houses.

A mother who objected to the decision said the measure has been in place for a number of years. She criticized another rule that requires a parent to be home at the end of the school day to meet the children and to take them out for further “experiences.” She said this requirement excluded working mothers and that at least one family had been excluded from the program for this reason. Another child was not allowed to host anyone because his parents smoke, she said. 

“It is not our school that requested this, but our school is cooperating with it. A child whose parents are divorced is punished twice, once because his parents divorced and the second time because it seems he will not be able to host,” she said.

The municipality said it was aware of the “sensitivity” of the L.A. school’s  request and was seeking a specific solution in every case. Hosting the child in the mother’s home however, “does not prevent the father from being a full partner in the activities,” the city said, adding that so far, it had not received any complaints from fathers.

The school said it was working toward an appropriate solution.