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Sunday, December 14, 2014 

Sephardic family leaves Zichron Yaakov after Haredi Ashkenazi residents harrass them

The family whose sons were discriminated against at a Haredi school because they didn't meet the standards of other residents has left the neighborhood:
Talmud Torah Zichron Gavriel in Zichron Yaakov, which was closed last week by the local council head amid allegations of ethnic discrimination against two young pupils, reopened Wednesday, but without the boys, whose family has apparently left the city.

In a message the father sent to a relative and was shown to Haaretz, the man wrote that he and his father (the pupils’ grandfather) were on the verge of an emotional breakdown and had therefore chosen to leave the city. Several attempts to reach the father for comment were unsuccessful, and there were reports by relatives that the family had been given 120,000 shekels ($30,400) to leave town.

The school was closed last week at the order of Local Council Chairman Eli Abutbul because of the repeated harassment of two brothers who attended the school. While the student body is primarily Ashkenazi and the family in question is of Mizrahi background, sources in the town say the children were not being harassed for ethnic reasons but because the family was not considered “ultra-Orthodox enough” for the school.

A relative of the children, however, insisted that there was an ethnic element to the harassment, saying that as long as the Mizrahi families “kept their heads down,” everything was fine. But when a rumor spread that the father had “snitched” to the Education Ministry about the alleged mistreatment of his children, the family was subject to incessant abuse that included graffiti on their home, flowerpots broken in their yard, and even stones being thrown at them on the street.

After the school’s closure its administration filed a lawsuit to get it reopened, but withdrew the suit in the end.

Abutbul says that he agreed to reopen the school only after the administration made commitments in writing. “I didn’t back down; I waited until I got it in writing that the Haredi community in Zichron and the school they attended was committed to accept this family’s children into the school with no discrimination and without any more of what they’d done to them,” Abutbul told Haaretz. “I informed the Education Ministry, which was very pleased.”

Abutbul also said he had spoken on Tuesday to the father, who had thanked him and said the children were looking forward to returning to school, but that since then the father wasn’t answering his phone. “If he did something during the evening or overnight behind the backs of community residents who stood up for him and his family like a reinforced wall, or if the rumors are true that he took money and left the community after everything that we did for them, it reflects very poorly on him,” Abutbul said.

Others in the community say the family had no choice but to leave. “They exerted psychological pressure on the family. It was clear they wouldn’t survive,” said one resident.

The Education Ministry, meanwhile, said that although the local council had allowed the school to reopen, its process of issuing a closure order against the school was proceeding. “A pre-closure warning, as required by law, was sent to the institution yesterday,” the ministry said on Wednesday.

Attorney Smadar Tal-Tabibyan, representing the school, said, “The institution’s administration operated in accordance with the Education Ministry’s instructions throughout the period, and is saddened that outsiders with interests chose to conduct an unrelated campaign through the media and fan the flames on the children’s backs.”
It's regrettable how bigoted the parents of the other students could be, and everyone incited/discriminated against the family for being of a different ancestral background. In that case, the school most certainly should be closed, but all Haredis of Ashkenazi background who harassed the family should be penalized for the awful example they set for their own children.

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