Israeli Teacher Says She Was Denied Jobs Because of Her Hijab

Teacher contends that despite acute shortage of Arabic teachers, and although clearly qualified, she was rejected time and again for three years.

A teacher filed a complaint last week against the Education Ministry and the Eilat municipality, maintaining she was repeatedly turned down for jobs as an Arabic teacher in the city’s schools because she wears a traditional Muslim head scarf.

The teacher, A., contends that despite an acute shortage of Arabic teachers in Eilat, and although she sat for several interviews and successfully handled classes of students, she was rejected time and again for three years.

In October 2010, A. first turned to the special administration established by the Education Ministry to find teachers for Eilat, and offered her services as an Arabic teacher. The following March the administration secretary requested details about her professional experience, adding that Eilat is in desperate need of Arabic teachers and that there are many vacancies. Shortly afterward, the secretary informed her of a vacancy at one of the city’s schools. A. asked if it was a religious school, since she was a Muslim and adhered to a Muslim dress code. The secretary replied that it wasn’t a religious school, and there was no problem with her being a practicing Muslim. In April, a new secretary at the administration contacted A. and informed her that the post was no longer vacant, without explaining why A. wasn’t called for an interview, adding that there were no vacancies in Eilat for her. A. asked her how it was possible that all the vacancies were filled shortly after media reports of shortages in teachers, but received no answer. She continued to inquire regularly at the administration about openings, but was repeatedly told there were none.

Still, A. received constant information from sources in the Education Ministry and colleagues that teachers were needed in Eilat and at nearby Kibbutz Eilot. In May 2011 the special administration published ads for Arabic teachers for Eilat elementary schools.

A. was eventually interviewed by four representatives of Eilat schools, and was under the impression the interview was successful. Several months later she was finally called to hold a lesson in one school, but was told by the school’s language class coordinator that her traditional dress was out of place, that the pupils would find it hard to accept such a look, and recommended that she withdraw her candidacy. Still, the lesson was successful, and A. received positive feedback from the school’s pedagogical staff, and was promised an answer about the job within days. Several weeks later she was told that her candidacy was rejected.

Attorney Efrat Podem of Tmura Center, who represents A., said: “The Eilat municipality accepts Arab teachers, but none of them look Arab. The Education Ministry repeatedly declared that Eilat needs teachers, and here we have an acclaimed teacher who is rejected with the excuse that there is no shortage of teachers.”

A. told Haaretz: “This is very humiliating. I discovered that adults are prejudiced. The kids themselves are open to accept and get to know people different from themselves.”