Israelis Must Stand With Ethiopian Students Over School Ban

Civics is the only subject that can and should be put to the test of daily life.

There is only one subject that doesn't have to be studied, that is best lived, experienced. Math, English, even Bible study cannot be traded for life experience, and doesn't need to be. Civics is the only subject that can and should be put to the test of daily life.

The new school year starts on Tuesday, and we are already being tested. This year we cannot respond as we did last year. There is no rest for the wicked, and the wicked are those who schemed to leave children of Ethiopian descent outside the fence, looking in, longing to be on the other side. Tell it not in Stockholm, publish it not in the streets of Oslo, lest the newspapers of the uncircumcised rejoice.

In two days' time Israeli society may be facing a badly timed window of opportunity, one we never imagined in our worst nightmares but which, to our shame, is before is. It is an opportunity for the entire educational system to practice what it preaches in civics classes.

It is an opportunity for the education system to teach a chapter of immeasurable value in good citizenship, a lesson so important that it could replace an entire year of civics lessons and thereby save valuable classroom hours.

If religious schools in Petah Tikva or anywhere else insist on refusing to admit Ethiopian students, if all of the pleading and threats of the education minister don't help, then every Israeli will have no choice but to identify with the Ethiopian children in whose faces the gate of apartheid has been slammed. No one will be able to make do any longer with admonishments and reproofs.

The entire education system will go on strike in solidarity with the little girl who stands and asks why. There is no value in education for values if one black boy remains shunned and shamed.

A thousand outstanding teachers and ten thousand outstanding lessons would not erase this black mark if we discharge our duty with lip service. The education minister's most recent sermon, in which he said "the most important thing is to strengthen education of Jewish, Zionist, democratic and social values," will ring hollow, worthless and embarrassing.

And so, with public opinion firmly behind us - including including students, parents and teachers - we shall lock the gates of every school. If the Ethiopian children are not allowed in, then we too, all of us, will remain outside with them, until a gate of hope ("Petah Tikva") opens to an Israeli society that is before our eyes becoming ugly to the point that it is unrecognizable, and which we must change.

If a general strike is too much for some parents who are already preparing their children ready for school, I have an alternative: All the celebrities that Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar invited to teach at schools on Tuesday should devote their remarks to those same children who don't have a classroom, or a teacher, or classmates.