Ethiopian Israeli says daughter was racially segregated at preschool in south

Sefty Bililin says Kiryat Gat municipality placed her three-year-old in all-black kindergarten located next to facility to which she had applied, but which turned out to be for white children only

The mother of a 3-year-old child from Kiryat Gat, has claimed her daughter was put in an all-black preschool, right next to an all-white preschool, in the southern city of Kiryat Gat.

“The school looked impressive and well-maintained,” wrote Sefy Bililin on Facebook. “My daughter got very excited and fell in love with the kindergarten. Suddenly, the teacher came to me and said she’d check if my daughter was signed up to this kindergarten.”

Bililin claims that although she signed her daughter up the child was not on the list.

“The teacher told me to check at the adjacent religious state preschool,” Bililin wrote.

She then went to the other kindergarten and was surprised to find out that the children at the preschool were all of Ethiopian descent, while the children at the first school were white-skinned.

“It pained me that the children experience racism at such a young age. They haven’t wronged anyone. They shouldn’t feel different. Unfortunately, it turned out that the kindergartens were segregated by the children’s skin color,” she wrote.

Bililin said that since the incident, she has been going to the city hall every day, trying to move her daughter to a different preschool, but so far, to no avail.

“I was accused of racism by the municipality,” she says. “I asked to move my daughter to a different preschool, but I was only offered distant preschool with no bus service.”

Kiryat Gat municipality strongly rejected any claims of racial segregation.

“Registration for kindergarten is done by computer, according to geographical area, parental requests and preferences for state and religious state preschools,” the council said.

“Parents of children in these kindergartens were offered other options farther away from their area of residence, and they refused and demanded kindergartens nearby.”

The Ministry of Education said in response that the ministry’s director for the southern district, Ram Zahavi, had summoned municipal representatives to an urgent meeting on the issue.

“Lack of integration of students of Ethiopian descent with the rest of the population goes against the values of the Education Ministry,” it said. “The ministry implements a clear policy that integrates the Ethiopian community with all students across all frameworks.

“This year, the ministry is implementing processes to strengthen the sense of belonging of Ethiopian students and to root out any alienation, exclusion or racism.”

Education Minister Rafi Peretz also issued a response condemning any form of segregation.

“Separation in kindergartens on a sectarian basis is not our way. It is immoral, and we oppose it strongly,” said Peretz.

“Lack of integration of the Ethiopian community with the rest of the population is not educational, not Jewish and not Israeli.”