A group of Ethiopian Israeli schoolgirls received a public apology from their nation’s education minister after a post of the white teachers teasing the students on a school trip went viral.
The girls publicized the teachers’ private and bigoted messages on social media, causing the country international embarrassment.
On Monday, March 6, a religious high school in Netivot, a town in the southern part of Israel, hosted a three-day overnight trip with teachers and students.
During the trip, one of the Black girls noticed a WhatsApp group titled “Black School Trip” while looking over one of the teachers’ shoulders. She then secretly filmed the chat and posted it on social media calling the educators “a disgrace,” according to the BBC.
The student wrote in the post, “Good morning to all the ‘educators’ of this school. It saddens me as a member of the [Ethiopian] community to see the level you sank to today. Instead of being our teachers and setting an example and making us feel like we’re in our safest place, you did the exact opposite.”
“Opening a group called ‘Black School Trip’ without even realizing that there were students behind you and mocking your students? I see the photos, and I just don’t believe that they come from our teachers,” she continued, saying, “You are a disgrace, I’m ashamed that you’re our teachers and that you’re teaching the future generation.”
Hundreds of thousands of people shared the video and pictures of the teachers’ messages, attracting the attention of Israeli politicians.
“The incident will be dealt with severely with all the tools at our disposal,” Israeli Education Minister Yoav Kisch said. “I’m sorry for the distress that was caused for the students. There will be zero tolerance for these sorts of incidents on my watch.”
The Jerusalem Post reports that one of the students’ sisters said her sibling called her about the ordeal.
“She was really upset and said that the teachers opened an insulting WhatsApp group about the students. We asked them to forward us the photos,” the sister said. “The girls are very offended and cannot continue with the trip, so we demanded that they be returned home.”
The mother of one student said this was not the first time this has happened with the school, saying, “Some girls were told they couldn’t go on the trip because of behavior problems, and those girls are Ethiopian.”
“On the other hand, another student, who isn’t Ethiopian, also has behavior issues and was allowed to go,” she continued.
The school’s headmaster released a statement regarding the teacher’s actions, saying, “this morning, we were witnesses, to our shock and devastation, miserable and extremely offensive comments from teachers about Ethiopian students who study in the school. The school management looks at these comments severely. There is no place for racist comments, and we won’t allow them in our school.”
After the school found out about the event, they contacted the country’s Education Ministry, who commented, “this was a very severe incident that cannot become commonplace. The involved teachers will be summoned for a hearing at the earliest convenience.”
According to the Ethiopian National Project, there are about 170,000 Ethiopian immigrants living in Israel in 2020. Out of the 170,000, 67,800 are naturalized Israeli. Over a quarter of Beta Israel, a name to refer to Jews of Ethiopian origin, are under 14 years old and are school-aged.
Many on social media have highlighted the anti-African sentiment inside the country and are not surprised by the teacher’s actions.
Another said this was a “Gentle reminder that these are the same people who gave birth control to Ethiopian Jews without their consent to ensure their birth rates remained down.”
One person on Twitter likened discrimination in Israel against the Ethiopian-Jewish people to Hitler’s anti-Aemitism.
Israeli officials have launched an investigation into the incident and suspended the teachers involved.