by Michal Schwartz
The past year has witnessed two cases of discrimination in the religious schools [in Israel]: ultraorthodox Jews of West European descent (Ashkenazis) discriminating against ultraorthodox Jews of darker hues. In August 2009, private religious schools in Petach Tikva refused to admit Ethiopian Jews. In response, the Education Ministry threatened to withdraw financial support for these schools and even to shut them down. In this way it compelled them to admit a hundred pupils.
The second, more recent instance occurred at the ultraorthodox West Bank settlement of Immanuel, where a Hasidic group known as the Slonim is dominant. In September 2008 the Slonim separated their daughters from the Mizrahi girls in the settlement’s school. (Mizrahis, also known as Sephardim, derive from North Africa and Arab lands.) The Slonim built a plaster wall the length of the school and put a fence through its yard, covering it with canvas so that their daughters wouldn’t see the Mizrahis. They changed the hours of the breaks and forbade association between the groups.