Striving for integration
Photo: Raanan Ben-Zur

Petah Tikva school now attended only by Ethiopians

Veteran Israelis gradually transfer children from local school following influx of students from immigrant families. 'This isn't about discrimination, there are some really sweet children amongst them, but the teachers can't handle the violence – enough is enough,' says concerned mother

Externally, the Ner Etzion elementary school in Petah Tikva looks like a normal school. There is the normal hustle and bustle of children at recess and the bell calling them back to class.


However, when you take a closer look, it is undeniably clear that the vast majority of the student body are from families that immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia.


The school is located in the heart of the Yoseftal neighborhood, which is primarily inhabited by families of a lower socio-economic standing.


About 60% of the residents are new immigrants from Ethiopia, and the rest are veteran Israelis. Nonetheless, only five of the 280 students at the Ner Etzion School are caucasian - and all five are set to graduate from it this year.


A former teacher at the school said that 14 years ago there were almost no Ethiopian students at the school. According to her, when Ethiopian families began moving into the neighborhood the school worked to integrate the new arrivals.


But, as the years lapsed, the number of Ethiopian students rose and that of the veteran Israelis decreased.


“They just ran away to other schools,” said the teacher.


One mother who transferred her children to a different school spoke with Yedioth Aharonoth. "This isn't about discrimination. There are some really sweet children amongst them, but a few years ago I decided that enough is enough,” said the mother.


“The situation became intolerable. The academic level plummeted while the level of violence rose to the point where the teachers just couldn't control it,” she explained.


'Veteran Ethiopians want out too'

"An outrage," one of the teachers currently working at the school called the situation. "It's hardest on the children, especially on field trips. People keep asking them if this is an Ethiopian school," she said.


Eli Sadeh, who until three years ago was the school principal said, “It is clear that when veteran Israelis see the percentage of Ethiopians increasing, this is their reaction.


“The absurd thing is that veteran Ethiopian immigrants have also asked to transfer their children from the school after they saw it was filling solely with Ethiopians,” he said.


“The problem is that some schools are flexing their muscles, and they don’t want to absorb Ethiopian students.


“When I was the principle I sounded the alarm when 50% of the students were Ethiopian. We did whatever we could to take care of these wonderful children,” he said.


Some 800 Ethiopian children study in Petah Tikva’s schools, most of them in the state-religious school system.


In order to discourage the creation of a 'ghetto' and with the intent of maintaining integration, a quota has been introduced, limiting the amount of Ethiopian students the schools can absorb.


Danny Adino Ababa contributed to the report


פרסום ראשון: 09.15.08, 15:12
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