A kindergarten in Israel remains closed amid backlash over allegations that it racially segregated students, remanding children of Ethiopian descent to a separate building with an entirely different entrance.
According to the Times of Israel, kindergartners who attended the school in Kiryat Gat, a town in Israel’s Southern District, have since been allowed into other nearby daycare facilities with local authorities offering transportation to those who live further away.
The controversy unfolded earlier this month when outraged mother Sefy Bililin, in a now viral Facebook post, described dropping off her 3-year-old daughter at kindergarten and the shock she felt when she was directed to a class filled only with Ethiopian kids.
Initially, Bililin said she was “confused” after a staffer told her her daughter wasn’t registered and that maybe she was in with the “second kindergarten” class. The reality of the situation became abundantly clear, however, when Bililin was made to check in at separate building, only to find the were only Ethiopian-Israeli students were inside.
“I haven’t been able to sleep since Sunday because of thoughts about where this generation is heading,” she wrote in an online post decrying the biased treatment of young kids who “never did anything wrong in their lives.”
“It’s not right what they do to these little kids,” Bililin continued. “Because of the color of their skin they cannot mix with other children? My daughter is worth as much as anyone else. There’s no way in the world she will be apart from the other kids because of the color of her skin. She was born here, and she’s as good as anyone.”
The frustrated mom said she pulled her daughter out of school and took her complaints to city leaders, who said the matter is now under investigation and will be solved “immediately.”
Israeli news outlet Walla cited a statement from the municipality explaining that students were assigned to a kindergarten using a computerized system that sorted the youths based on “geographic area and parental requests for state and state-religious schools.” City leaders have denied allegations that students were assigned based on their race.
The furor comes just months after protests erupted in the streets of Israel following the fatal shooting of Ethiopian-Israeli teen Solomon Tekah. The Jewish state was consumed with unrest after Tekah, 18, was gunned down by an off-duty cop who said he feared for his life after coming under attack by a group of teens.
Local activist Naftali Aklum decried the teen’s killing and said the violence only highlighted the racial divisions plaguing Israel.
“This type of racism didn’t just start yesterday, it’s been alive since before our ancestors got here,” Aklum told The Jerusalem Post at the time, noting how Ethiopian Jews had “walked over 300 miles from Ethiopia to Sudan, stayed in refugee camps, lost 4,000 Ethiopians on the way and when they finally made it to Israel, this is how they treated us.”