Bialik-Rogozin School in Tel Aviv was bright with balloons Monday morning, the day after a short documentary on the foreign kids studying there won an Oscar.
The entrance to the school was decorated with a sign saying, "We have the Oscar, congratulations". On it, the school's principal is pictured holding the gold statuette.
Many of the students studying at Bialik-Rogozin, most of whom come from impoverished and war-ridden countries, have no idea what it means to win an Oscar, but this does not stop them from smiling at the sign and hoping that perhaps the victory will lead to a reevaluation of the mass deportation planned by the state.
Jessica, a 14-year old student, was told about the Oscar by the school's security guard. "For my friends the best prize will be to stay in Israel and not be deported back to Africa," she said.
"The school in Israel gave me things that no other place in the world could have. I am happy and excited because I didn't know how our stories could move people."
'Strangers No More', by Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon, tells the story of Bialik-Rogozin's students, 1st-12th graders who come from more than 48 different countries. Karen Tal, the school's principal, accompanied the filmmakers to the Oscars.
"I'm so happy and excited," she told Ynet from Hollywood. "When we found out we were nominated we didn't know what to expect and we felt a little in the dark, but when we arrived in Los Angeles we suddenly saw crowds of people everywhere and a giant red carpet with women and men outfitted in their best attire," she said.
"And then the moment arrived when they announced the winner for the best short documentary – and there was a moment when our hearts stopped, and then they told us we won. It's an amazing feeling. We're on the map, and no doubt this is a source of global pride for Israel in general and Tel Aviv specifically."
Tal added, "This victory symbolizes a huge celebration of hope for students who achieve great things in their studies on a daily basis, but mostly provide an example for us about the values of altruism and how human beings should behave.
"And still, even on such a happy evening we are perturbed by questions of deportation. We hope the Oscar and the fact that Israel's image has improved in the world will prevent the deportation that could shame us in the eyes of the world."
President Shimon Peres called Tal on Monday morning to congratulate her. "You have brought us double joy – one with your blessed work at the school, which is wonderful in and of itself, and the other with this victory," he said.
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai also made a special appearance at the school to congratulate teachers and students.
Monday morning's celebrations (Photo: Yaron Brener)
Teachers who arrived at the school Monday morning could not contain their excitement. "We won the Oscar!" cried gym teacher Boris Yohanano before taking his students on a morning run.
Teacher Ruti Yarkoni said school was the proper place for foreign kids, not the facility built for illegal migrants in Ben Gurion International Airport.
"I don’t think any other such school exists in Israel or even the world. I work with the small children and I don’t even think they know what an Oscar is, but I'll tell them," she said.
The Foreign Workers' Hotline also commented on the victory. "We commend the Oscar win but with all the celebrations we want to remind everyone that these are precisely the children Eli Yishai wants to deport. The children starring in the film and their families have not received refugee status or work visas from the state despite the fact that they are refugees, and they have been sentenced to a life of poverty, deprivation, and uncertainty," the organization said.