A letter being distributed in a northern Tel Aviv neighborhood and intended for local residents raised a furor after residents complained at its message: A call to prevent the establishment of a school for children of foreign workers.
The letter beseeched locals of the Naot Afeka B area to oppose the Tel Aviv municipality's plan to create a cluster of preschools in the area for a number of reasons, including parking issues and damage to the local park, which will be allocated for the preschools.
A preschool child (Photo: Shutterstock/Illustration)
In the letter the concerned citizens worried that the new facility would "mostly service parents from outside the neighborhood, including the children of foreign workers instead of a green garden."
Yaela Boker-Kiryati, a local resident, did not like the memo and sent a strongly worded response.
"Recently, letters calling for opposition to the establishment of a new cluster of preschools have been sent out. We would like to believe that the neighborhood can accept children who are not originally from here as well as those of all creeds and colors," her response letter read.
"We wish to raise our children in an area that does not consider itself some privileged elite and is unwilling to accept others. In disgust I reject the attempt to enlist support for a racistly motivated cause, which is shamelessly articulated in a manner which brings to mind dark places and periods from the past."
The original letter's authors flatly reject any claims of racism, and say the story has been blown out of proportion.
"This is not an issue of racism but of priorities," said Yaakov Dori, one of the letter's original signers.
"This is an elderly neighborhood, the last thing it needs is a preschool. The words chosen were problematic, but not because of racism. If I had to rewrite the letter, I would phrase it differently because the letter was misunderstood."
Abraham Shavit, who also signed the letter, added that "we didn’t want to talk about forigen workers. The area has enough preschools and theoretically we have no issue with the children of foreign workers but rather everyone who is not from the neighborhood. This is simply not a matter of skin color. I volunteer with Arab students, can you really say that I am racist?"
Mickey Gitzin, a Tel Aviv City Council member for Meretz
, was enraged by the letter.
"This letter expresses a racist and ugly spirit that has unfortunately become commonplace in Israeli
society. I am of the opinion that the children of foreign workers and asylum seekers
take part in the formal and informal education system throughout the entire nation and not just in southern Tel Aviv."
In response Tel Aviv city hall said "the preschool cluster was established on an area designated for public buildings. In light of the fact that Tel Aviv has been blessed with a rise in children in recent years, and new directives by the Trajtenberg Committee demanding the construction of additional preschools, the municipality must establish more such establishments in the area in question."