Following a Yedioth Ahronoth report saying hundreds of ultra-Orthodox teenage girls of Sephardic descent are forbidden from attending school, Interior Minister Eli Yishai has instructed municipalities to stop funding the discriminating institutions.
About two years ago racial segregation at an all girls' school in Emmanuel caused an uproar. Ashkenazi parents in the haredi community refused to send their daughters to study with Sephardic girls. Now it appears that the phenomenon is far from being eradicated.
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The minister's office said the girls who are being discriminated against are residents of Jerusalem, Bnei Brak Modi'in Illit and other towns, adding that the office has received dozens of complaints. An official in the Interior Ministry said some 380 girls are being discriminated against and that the only way to rectify the situation is to stop funding these institutions.
"Minister Yishai wants to apply pressure on the municipalities to so they will ensure equality by law," the official said. "This is not a new phenomenon, but is has grown to such an extent that we must put an end to it."
Minister Yishai released a statement saying, "The only sin of these girls is that they were not born with the right color. I have instructed the ministry's director general to freeze the allocation of budgets to municipalities that fund institutions that have adopted racist policies. Racism must be eradicated and we will fight it with all the means at our disposal.
Knesset Member Chaim Amsellem, a former Shas member and current chairman of the Am Shalem movement, criticized Yishai's "late" reaction. "The issue of discrimination in haredi institutions has been a know fact for a while. Not enough has been down to fight it. The funding of these institutions must be stopped, and those who support this discrimination or threaten the complainants must be dismissed.
"Where was Yishai all this time? He did nothing, because his children, as well as the children of the rest of the MKs, attend these discriminating schools," he said.
The City of Jerusalem said it has taken steps against discrimination in local haredi schools and has eliminated the phenomenon "almost entirely."