Why Is Pluralist, Liberal Tel Aviv Segregating Foreign Children at School?

Haaretz Editorial
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
A child of a foreign worker sits at a bus stop in south Tel Aviv, 2017.
A child of a foreign worker sits at a bus stop in south Tel Aviv, 2017. Credit: Moti Milrod
Haaretz Editorial

Following Petah Tikva, Eilat and Netanya, it now turns out that even Tel Aviv – the enlightened, pluralist, liberal city – separates the children of asylum seekers and migrant workers from Israeli children at school. On Thursday, official data from the municipality was disclosed by Haaretz's Lee Yaron, and it paints a clear picture of segregation.

Of the 2,433 elementary-school children of asylum seekers and migrant workers, 2,228 (91.5 percent) attend schools designated exclusively for foreigners. Children without legal status from the Hatikva, Shapira and Neveh Sha’anan neighborhoods, and for whom there is no room in schools near their homes, are sent to schools far away. But that doesn’t happen to Israeli children.

How COVID – and Israel’s Trump-brokered lovefest with Arab states – are affecting Palestinians

-- : --

In the cases of Petah Tikva, Eilat and Netanya, where the separation was more blatant, courts demanded that the municipalities change their policies. It’s strange that Tel Aviv failed to learn the lesson and decided to stick with the notorious “separate but equal” policy, which was ruled illegal in the United States back in the middle of the last century.

The Tel Aviv Municipality responded to these accusations in two ways. Officially, it denied them, claiming that children’s placement in schools is governed solely by geography. And indeed, as long as the city doesn’t change its policy and allow children to register outside their geographic area, the result will be schools exclusively for foreigners.

But in recordings obtained by Haaretz, municipal officials admitted that they indeed established separate, designated schools for foreigners, because city residents objected to integration. The argument by Shirley Rimon Bracha, who heads the city’s education administration, that integration always results in people “making faces” cannot justify this.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government admittedly plays a major role in this problem. Asylum seekers who fled for their lives from Eritrea and Sudan were simply put on buses at the Egyptian border and let off near Tel Aviv’s Levinsky Park. But that doesn’t absolve the Tel Aviv Municipality of responsibility. Mayor Ron Huldai, a former school principal, also holds the city’s education portfolio, and therefore bears heavy responsibility for this segregation. A man who wants to be an alternative at the national level for Israelis who seek justice and equality has been revealed as the manager of an educational policy that isn’t substantively different from that of rightists like MK Ayelet Shaked, Public Security Minister Amir Ohana and Interior Minister Arye Dery.

The Tel Aviv Municipality shouldn’t wait for this issue to come to court. It must put an end to the segregation of its own initiative, and immediately.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

Click the alert icon to follow topics: