News of a racially segregated kindergarten in the Jerusalem suburb of Mevaseret Zion, first made public in Israel Hayom's Friday edition, led to a storm of controversy over the weekend. The children enrolled in the kindergarten are all of Ethiopian origin, and news of the kindergarten comes amid a national uproar over mistreatment of Israel's Ethiopian Jewish minority.
The chairman of the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, MK Danny Danon (Likud), said on Saturday he intends to hold an urgent hearing on the matter as well as take a tour of the kindergarten facilities.
"The recent racist incidents that have occurred in Israel will not become part of our daily routine,” Danon said. “Anyone who excludes Ethiopians should be placed behind bars under charges of criminal racism. Mevaseret Zion will not turn into a second Kiryat Malachi or Petach Tikva [cities that have had racial tensions].”
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Danon continued: "To eradicate the phenomenon of racism against Ethiopians we need to combine educational initiatives with a full integration of Ethiopian immigrants throughout the country, both in geographic and employment terms." Danon was expected to visit Kiryat Malachi on Sunday, a city recently been rocked by a series of anti-racism demonstrations.
"Anyone who supports equality, immigrant absorption and the humane treatment of all people should view the separation of Ethiopian children as intolerable,” said Dr. Yitzhak Kadman,
the executive director of the Israel National Council for the Child. “It is unfortunate that this trend has reached all the way down to the kindergarten level. It is impossible to rate students as first-class and second-class."
Kadman said he intended to handle the incident swiflyt and seriously, saying, "It is quite possible that this affair violates the laws on students’ rights, which prohibit the discrimination in registration or admission of a student based on religion, gender, ethnic background or other factors."
Gadi Yavarkan, chairman of an Ethiopian rights advocacy group, echoed Kadman's statements. "They are hurting these children, but we will take the good education we got at home and force it upon the state of Israel. We are the salt of the earth," Yavarkan said.
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