09/01/2009, 00.00

Racism: Jewish religious schools refuse black Ethiopian students

Arieh Cohen
The decision is also supported by the Grand Rabbi of Israel, Shlomoh Ammar. Israelis annoyed by the racist gesture. The government cuts funding to the 3 schools that do not want students of colour. Perplexity of the Christian community.

Tel Aviv (AsiaNews) - A racist and utterly implausible drama of unprecedented proportions is unfolding in Israel, in the town ironically named, "Petah Tikvah", "Portal of Hope", one of the first villages created by the Jewish return to their historical homeland in the late nineteenth century. Jewish religious schools of that city, on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, are refusing to allow children and teenagers of colour admission. They are black Jews, legal immigrants from Ethiopia, about 150.

They would have been well received in non-religious public schools, but for reasons not well understood, the public authorities will not allow it because it is opposed by the very highest ecclesiastical authority in the country, the Grand Rabbi Shlomoh Ammar.

Exhaustive negotiations, involving heads of government but also the Supreme Court have succeed so far failed to resolve the situation, on the very eve of the opening of the new school year (today, 1 September).

The vast majority of Israelis have reacted with evident discomfort at such openly expressed racism by their religious leaders and do not understand why the government is proving so obsequious towards the Grand Rabbi when one of the most fundamental rights of its citizens is being called into question.

On a very superficial level, the story does not touch the tiny Christian community in Israel, but as is often observed, every manifestation of intolerance or exclusion is cause for concern. This because Christians, more than most, need a climate of freedom and respect for equality of civil rights, for men and women, whites and blacks, Jews and Arabs, and so on.

So far the government of Tel Aviv has limited to denouncing the "discriminatory" attitude of the 3 schools. Minister of Education, Gideon Saar, has pledged that the three schools will not receive subsidies from the state.

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