Opinion |

Israel’s Kids Still Won’t Be Safe at School and Day Care

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
Demonstrators protest for day care supervision in Tel Aviv, July 7, 2019.
Demonstrators protest for day care supervision in Tel Aviv, July 7, 2019. Credit: Moti Milrod
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

The debate was short and simple. Should we join the demonstration by parents demanding that the government intervene in what’s happening at day care centers and preschools, or stay home?

The demonstration revealed a complete lack of faith in the government’s will and ability to fulfill its obligations. It was a protest over the fact that the government hasn’t finished enacting legislation that has been languishing for years, nor is it implementing laws that already exist about the supervision of preschools. At the same time, the demonstration called for the government to do what the protesters don’t believe it can do.

My decision was to stay at home, and my conscience is clean. After all, an election will soon take place, and our wise public will surely punish those who let a satanic day care staffer abuse dozens of small children entrusted to her. This time, we surely won’t forgive the horrifying footage in which the staffer throws, hits, grabs and chokes those poor helpless kids, slapping them and making them eat vomit – as long as we haven’t forgotten come the September election.

Demonstrators protest for day care supervision at Azrieli junction in Tel Aviv, July 7, 2019.Credit: Moti Milrod

There’s no doubt the public will also settle accounts with the government for the killing of Solomon Teka and the discrimination against Ethiopian Israelis in general. After all, they too staged a very impressive protest.

This is the holy congregation that will turn its back on this government because of our overcrowded hospitals and the railway system that’s still not capable of completing the trip between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in a single stage. We can trust the public to know what to do.

Still, maybe the decision to skip the demonstration was a mistake. After all, it’s not every day that people get an opportunity to be part of a historic achievement, almost a revolution, like the one the parents’ demonstration secured. They got the prime minister to transfer responsibility for some day care centers from the Social Affairs Ministry to the Education Ministry.

Our jaws dropped. With one thrust of a carefully staged announcement, a solution was born that made us bang our heads against the wall and scream, “Why didn’t we think of that before?” It’s so easy, so effective. And so wrong.

After all, it’s under the Education Ministry’s aegis that most crimes against children in the schools are committed. In 2010, the ministry itself reported that it received 500 complaints about students abusing each other and 107 about adults harming children.

In 2016, a shocking case came to light – six teachers at a Belz Hasidic school in Tel Aviv had sexually assaulted children who studied there and abused them for years. Earlier this year, a few dozen students demonstrated outside the Education Ministry demanding that it take action over cases of sexual harassment and other types of harassment in their schools.

Scarcely a week goes by without a report about a teacher harassing or assaulting children. For years, the state comptroller’s annual reports have detailed the Education Ministry’s negligence and helplessness regarding the enforcement of the law in schools.

Thick folders hold hundreds of regulations and directives from the ministry’s director general about violence, abuse and harm to students. Yet the schools continue to resolve such issues within their own four walls.

Transferring responsibility to the Education Ministry won’t turn day care centers into safe spaces. It will merely provide the ministry with another few billion shekels that will star in the next state comptroller’s reports.

Schools, preschools and day care centers are battlefields, and it makes no difference whether they’re under the Education Ministry or the Regional Cooperation Ministry. Any parent who thinks that now the Education Ministry will do the work for him and keep his children safe is a criminal, too.

He’s like someone who lets his kids play on a busy highway and expects the transportation minister to be responsible for the driver who runs them over. Or an Ethiopian Israeli who thinks that now the police will protect him, after the controversy over the killing of Solomon Teka. Our vigilante state has taught its citizens that there’s no choice but to take responsibility for themselves and their children.

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