Photo: AP
Archive photo
Photo: AP
Bedouin workers claim they face discrimination in Sderot school
Contractor who hires female Bedouin cleaners complains they face racism, school insists it simply wants cleaning after classes while parents voice unease at 'fear children feel when a woman all covered up enters the school.'
A contractor who hires out female Bedouin cleaners to a school in the southern city of Sderot has slammed what he describes as consistently discriminatory and humiliating treatment that has been shown by parents of the students.



The Religious Scientific School recently contacted the contractor who only employs workers from the Bedouin sector. The female cleaners arrive every day at the school at 2pm while the school day for the pupils ends at 3:30pm.


“Everything begins and ends with the fact that they are Bedouin. The treatment toward them is racist and discriminatory,” the contractor claimed.


Archive photo (Photo: AP)
Archive photo (Photo: AP)


“I don’t know if they’re going to return to work there. Yesterday one of the workers went into the school and a few minutes later she was remove from it. They asked her to return only after the students had left because they don’t want them to see her. This is purely for racist reasons,” he vented.


Despite the charges, the chairman of the school’s Parents’ Committee, Avi Ezra, was apologetic for any unintentional offence that may have been caused.


“If anyone was hurt, we are sorry. We have no problem with female Bedouin workers,” Ezra sought to clarify.


“We object to bringing in cleaners during study hours regardless of their origins. I don’t know which of the parents from the committee members expressed these things but it’s not our way.”


The contractor, however, maintains that the workers’ ethnicity is the reason for the apparent lack of respect they are afforded at the school.


“I drop cleaners off in Sderot every day at two schools and the treatment is humiliating. They removed a worker from the school yesterday and forced her to wait for a full hour in the sun until the children had gone,” he claimed.


“Their problem, and everyone knows it, is that they don’t want to see an Arab woman. They tell stories in order to cover up their racism. I’ve been living with this every day since I started working in Sderot.”


According to the contractor, his conclusions are not based on mere conjecture. “Everyone has complained to my face, ‘we don’t want Arab women, we don’t want Arab women.’ They are legal and organized cleaning workers. They simply don’t want to accept anyone different,” he argued.


“They’ve been working for me for seven years, they worked in other schools and there was no problem. But in the religious school in Sderot they simply got rid of her. She left there crying. I had to beg her to return to work.”


 (Photo: Roee Idan)


Despite Ezra’s attempts to clarify the committee's official position, some unsettled parents have openly opined that the cleaners’ way of dressing—covered in face veils and long skirts—“scares the children.”


Indeed, correspondence of a WhatsApp group for the parents, which was obtained by Yedioth Ahronoth, attests to the unease felt among some parents of the pupils with the employment of female Bedouin workers.


“We are not interested in Bedouin women walking around the school during the teaching hours,” one member of the group wrote. “We are not at all ok with female Bedouin cleaners,” wrote another.


“The children in the lower grades are scared every time someone with her face covered up enters the school,” said one of the mothers whose son is studying there.


“As members of the Parents Committee, we need to take a joint decision about how to continue if we don’t get a solution from any official.”


One mother said that there was unity among the parents to intensify the campaign, including staging a strike and keeping their children at home.


As a result, some appealed directly to the city’ municipality demanding that the school change its contractor and work with its previous one which only employed Jews.


Municipal authorities, however, told the school that women from the Bedouin community could not be prevented from being employed, especially because of their attire.


“The Sderot Municipality acted, is acting and will act only in accordance with the regulations and the law,” a statement said in response.


First published: 03.08.18, 10:02
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