Russian version                                                                                    Michael DORFMAN

CAPITAL OF RACISM

Racism has yet again reared its ugly head in a Beersheba grammar school. “Ten students attached us, and beat us,” declared a young girl from the Yitzhak Rabin High School. “The students have formed a lynch court to preside over the Russian girls in our school.”

Six months ago, at this same school, 11-year-old Vika Mairononvski was driven to commit suicide. Two days ago, the mother 56 year old, Vera Mairononvski, also committed suicide. This was the woman who had been assured of aid by Russian Affairs Vice-mayor Moshe Borukhov. However, schools director Ora Ben-Jaakov, refused to aid the Maironovski family in any manner.

The proliferance of racism in the Beersheba schools continues unchecked. Many of the immigrant Russian teenagers consider the local authorities directly responsible for this proliferance of terror, violence and racism at their schools.

“Those bullies attached me and my sister. If we had not been rescued by a teacher who happened to be passing by...I shudder to think what would have happened to us,” declared N. a student at the Yitzhak Rabin High School in Beersheba. “I thought they would kill me.” “They attached us from all sides, threw stones at us, beat us with broken candles,” added an 11th grade student.

This heinous act did not occur under the watchful eyes of the military police in Gaza or in Hebron, but in the confines of one of Beersheba’s finest schools, in one of the area’s wealthiest and most well established neighborhoods.

During a meeting, held in memory of the death of Yitzhak Rabin, the former prime minister of Israel, one of the Russian girls was approached by a large group of students. They rebuked her, telling her that her clothing was too tight and immodest. They further insulted her.... calling her a prostitute...”just like all Russians”. These students blame all Russians for the political and economic turmoil in Israel.

N. stepped in to help her sister, but the little lynch mob attached her. Students from other schools, who were attending the meeting, further joined the mob. An explosive atmosphere reigned over the meeting.

There was also some immigrant Russians amongst the surrounding crowds. A mother of one of the Russian boys, stated that “Yes, her son was among the watching crowd,” but then she further, stated that the girls were guilty of causing the attach and deserved what they got. When a friend of the girls attempted to come to their defense, he too was thrown to the ground and beaten. According to his statement, as recorded in the Beersheba weekly journal, he tried to help the girls and they “threw him to the ground and kicked him.” “They were like animals,” he said. “It’s a miracle that we managed to escape.”

That evening N. had to write an essay for school on “peaceful co-existence”. “I don’t know haw I can now defend such a thesis,” she stated.

Six months ago, Israel was disturbed by the suicide of 11-year-old Vika Maironovski. AT the time, the mayor of the city and his aids refused to acknowledge the existence of the racial problem. When presented with the facts, they replied that it was old news. The school children that had been at the cause of the suicide, like true politicians, appeared at the funeral. They cried and asked forgiveness from the deceased. City politicians promised to render all possible aid to the mother of the unfortunate child.

Last week the 56 year old mother of Vika Maironovski was found dead. Relatives stated, that Vera Maironovski spoke frequently of ending her life; She never received any of the aid promised by the city officials who attended her daughter’s funeral; just as these same officials have not aided the efforts of the youth organization, the Russian Panthers. The same youth organization which is trying to establish a location for the victims of the prevailing racial abuse. Aid, which was promised by Haim Ramon and Julia Tamir.

Racism has taken deep roots in the Beersheban schools. Mass beatings of emigrant children have become the norm. The populace of Beersheba remembers the beating of Jene Mavraky, Olga Kaminski, Vera Frolov and Marina Broide at the hands of their classmates at the Makif Dalet School. They also remember the tragic suicide of the 12-year-old Dima Xugatov. The Russian Panthers published the proof of the racism behind these occurrences after the suicide of Vika Maironovski. At the time, the municipal authorities and Israel’s Ministry of Public Education refused to consider or comment on the charges of racism in the schools.

The mother of the girls, involved in this recent beating, said she was not prepared to return her children to the unsafe conditions at the school. “We have never experienced such treatment, even under the worst of Soviet anti-Semitism.

The city authorities, and the Ministry of Public Education, in general, still refuse to acknowledge that there was a racial incident. The schools director, Ora Ben-Jaakov told a correspondent that “all necessary measures have been taken to insure the safety of the children, but the girls for some reason don’t want to return to school.”

During the last municipal elections, the present mayor and his political allies came into power by inflaming racist hysteria and inter-community hatred amongst the populace. On the day the new administration took office, a teacher in Makif Geemel High School, prohibited emigrant children from speaking in their native Russian language in school. The children responded to this prohibition with graffiti slogans protesting the order. The schools director responded to their protest by calling in the police.

In October 1998, a delegation of teachers from the former USSR and members of the Ministry of Public Education visited the Yitzhak Rabin High School. They were shown around the school, the classes, and the children’s schoolwork and told how well the emigrant children had been treated at the school. As the delegation was leaving a large group of students gathered on a walk bridge above the delegation’s bus. The students spat on the bus and chanted “Stinking Russians, go back to Russia!”

And so racism does not exist.

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