The racism raging at Beersheva schools
The immigrats' children are the racism victims
The answer is "Russian panthers"
In November-December 1999 the mayor of the south Israeli city Beersheva Yakov Terner started an intensive activity on establishing contacts with Jewish communities in Northern America. Specifically he attended Jewish Assembly GA in Atlanta in November and also visited twin-towns of Beersheva Montreal (Canada) and Seattle (USA). Not so long ago a delegation from Montreal and Seattle has visited Beersheva.
In the same time the south Israeli city Beersheva he rules becomes the beeding-ground of racism, in municipal education particularly. Primary victims of racism are immigrants' children from the Russian - speaking community. A non-profit voluntary association "La Merkhav" registered 192 racists displays at South Region schools (146 events in Beersheva alone) in 1998/99 school year. 68 incidents involved violence. According to Israeli Children Defense Council 80% of incidents took place at racist background. Schoolchildren's response was "The Russian Panther" movement.
For many people in Israel and abroad Beersheva in the last 10 years has become a symbol of racism and inter-ethnical hatred at schools. Even in America the city is known for its poor glory: because of systematic incidents on ground of racism and inter-ethnic hatred at schools. The representative of Association of Jewish Communities (UJA) in Israel Josef Alfert has told, that one of the chiefs of American Jewish Council (AJC), Mr. Harvis, was shocked by the brutal battery of a Russian girl in one of Beersheva's schools. A wide project that was started in Israel on American money was developed in result. However, when the representatives of Association have addressed to Beersheva's authorities, it appeared, that the city has no one to whom to speak on this topic.
During five years activists of non-commercial association " La Merkhav " were the only people, assisting assaulted and injured Russian children.
There are some facts
In January 1994 Jerusalem newspaper " Kol-Ha-Yir " has informed about the further escalation of hostility between the Russian and Hebrew speaking schoolboys on ground of racism and inter-ethnic hostility in one of the most prestigious Israeli schools - "Himnasia Rahavia" in Jerusalem. Eventually, the boiling hatred there has reached the level of mass riots and fights with the usage of weapon. Human rights activist Alex Tentzer from the Committee of the pre-Elections Promises Check has published a history of Josef Mimkin who was systematically escaping from school because of the mockeries on the ground of racism. When "nobody do not knows" about the facts of racism, when they do not get into press, it is the first symptom that the racism is already reached the stage of a cancer. A publication about a battery of Ola Kaminskaya (a schoolgirl from "Makif Dalet" school), which took part on ground of racism, in June 1996 (Michael Dorfman " We Have Not Noticed Her Tears " "Negev" newspaper, 22.04.1996) has become the first publication on this theme in the south of the country. And a week later the whole class have brutally beaten another Russian girl ("Negev" 29.04.96) at the same school.
Next year the classmates (with shouts like " Russian stinkers ") have beaten a grade nine student of the same school "Makif Dalet" Vera F. ("Negev", 17.03.97). Month later schoolgirls from Hebrew-speaking families (at the same "Makif Dalet" school) have sadistically beaten another girl, Nastia M., accompanying execution by the racists outcries like "Russians - prostitutes", "go back to Russia", etc. It took place directly in a classroom (newspapers "Negev" 24.06.97, "Kol-Bee" 24.06.97, "Sheva" 24.06.97). Nastia till now suffers from consequences of a heavy nervous shock. 21.10.98 newspapers "The News of the South" and "Negev" have published details of systematic mockery-humiliations over a boy Sasha O. Classmates systematically beat him, extorted money from him. The boy was accused that "Russians have stolen the country from Israelis".
After one of brutal beatings the boy was taken to hospital "Forty" with a brain concussion. Hereinafter his family has left South of the country and now lives in Netania.
Suicide of a 13-year boy Dima Khudiakov, has stirred up Beersheva in the beginning of the last year and has caused excitements in Nackal-Beka neighborhood. ("Hatred to emigrants - reason of death of a boy from Caucasus", "Kol-ha-Negev" 10.01.99). "Makif Ofakim" 8-th grade schoolgirl, Vika Abramova, was brutally beaten by classmates and was taken to emergency with a backbone trauma. The children shouted at her "Your mother is a prostitute, and all of you, Russians, are prostitutes!" ("Yediot Akhronot" 10.06.99). No criminal charges were laid against attackers in all incidents! And to transfer your child to another school is almost impossible in Israel until you are moving to another city. On assurance of the school's principal that an educational-pedagogical work was done among the schoolboys the girl's mother has no other options but to send her back at school.
However, in bewilderment the girl has found out, that humiliations have only amplified. Hebrew-speaking origins shouted at her: "All Russians must be forced to sit on wheelchairs".
In November 1998 the press reported that in a well-being school "Makif Gimel" graffiti "Russian is our Language", "We Survived Osventsem [Auschwitz], we will survive [Israeli] school" appeared. It turned out that the administration has prohibited to speak Russian to senior pupils at the school territory. The children's reaction was graffiti. As far as many of pupils specialized in mass-media they happened to interest the leading newspapers, national radio and TV telling them about the incident. And than the school management committed the next pedagogical mistake: Rachel Tirosh called for the police. It's not the first case of Russian language prohibition at Beersheva. Two months earlier a manager of reanimation department in Be'ersheva hospital Soroka prof. Groman prohibited the Russian stuff to communicate in Russian and even hanged posters of appropriate content. In Association of Authority Quality Inspection such attitude was briefly characterized as racism.
Facts are stubborn. Association "La Merkhav" that means "to scope" under the guidance of Olga Filaretova have registered 194 clear and documentary proved events of racism and ethnic hatred in Negev schools, 142 of them in Be'ersheva in 1998/1999 academic year. Half of cases involved physical violance. The children were beaten. Olga Filaretova is not a weak-nervous woman. For many years she was a senior inspector of police of preventive inspection of teenage criminality on the Urals (faraway provincial region of Russia). But even she was struck by the violence rage in Israel. "La Merkhav" activists had responsibility to register 26 cases of hatred display of Russian-speaking schoolchildren.
The facts were collected by the schoolchildren that often became victims of verbal and physical violence on the ground of racism and ethnic hatred at their place. Neither teacher, nor inspectors of Ministry of education or education department the Mayor City Hall, nor Russian-speaking politicians wished to see what happened under their nose. One of them, Mayor Deputy from a Russian party "Israel be Aliya" (IBA) started a legal dispute with a school that had built a fence near his villa. What happened behind that fence the Mayor Deputy didn't want to see at all. In the assistance groups "La Merkhav" explained to their volunteers-observers that they were not journalists, inspectors or teachers. Their aim was to collect the materials, help people to find out the truth. They coped with the task honorably. A motivated letter with results and recommendations was sent to the City Mayor, but nothing followed. The Mayor was busy. He was agitated with the "serious" questions. The issue was peace with Syria, he has to give up the Golan Plato and leave Judea and Samaria. Children's fate was left for time later. Simular letters were laid on several Ministers' tables, leaders of American organizations that knew well what racism is. Everybody has sent the reply. Some ministers telephoned personally or through their referents, made appointments, asked for materials to study.
But it always turned out, that the media perceived each event as single and did not wish to see, that all conditions, the whole system of urban education is ill: poisoned by racism. When an activist of the All-Israeli Union of the Protection of the Children, Chana Dashevsky, has addressed to one of Ofakim school, trying to find out the case of humiliation and extortion of money from a schoolboy Alik S., administration, teachers and authorities have ignored her appeal. But the fact of the complaint has become known to humiliators, and they have brutally beaten the boy. These and many other facts are summarized in the article written by Nurit Vargaft "Re-educate" ("Kol-ha-Yir" 5.2.99).
Israel is a "military state". Therefore a sharp policy of discipline, "law and order" at schools, was established in general in the country. Events like "taxation", fighting, and so on, were severely punished, and Hebrew speaking students were relatively well protected. That's why the situation with Russian speaking children in Israeli schools can not be considered as private, but reflects attitudes on some governmental and political levels... However, some municipal authorities are not hiding any more how they are worried.
Only the City Hall of Be'ersheva kept the Olympic calmness. At the meeting with the Ministry of Social Safety prof. Shlomo Ben-Ami, the City Mayor Jacob Terner declared that he was not aware of a single case of racism and ethnic hatred at schools for the last academic year.
In August 1999 the leaders of the association "La Merkhav" met with distinguished French philosopher Albert Memmy, that came here to get the title of honorary Doctor of Ben-Gurion University. Memmy, the author of a book "Racism", said than that hushing up is the first and the main symptom of the society having cancer metastasis.
Celebrating the victory after the elections, the Mayor Jacob Terner in an interview to local radio station "Kol a-Darom" shared his ideas about the city's education system. Mayor answered to the question about pedagogical stuff: "We are considering as future students and teachers new immigrants". For 2 nearest years near 200 students - new immigrants from the other cities will get the second and the third degree in Ben-Gurion University. None of them is going to stay in Beer-Sheva. New immigrants in city's education are also not welcomed. However, without teachers - new immigrants - they can't manage. They are more than one third part of pedagogical body in city schools. But only ordinary teachers. Not more. New administration that had promised to end the discrimination didn't appoint even a single new immigrant to a leading position in the education and sport departments. The City Hall did almost nothing to help such public initiatives as the school "Impulse" or projects of New Immigrants - Teachers Associatio .And it's not for career reasons. There were "our" (Russian speaking) teachers, who used to prepare schoolchildren for most complicated competitions. And there they, too, whose hands were tied by the authorities. They were forced to follow alien for them directions, their creativity was ruined and restricted, they voices were excluded from the voices of Be'ersheva's teachers. Be'ersheva is now occupying the 2nd place in the country by educational level thanks to Russian-speaking immigrants, but only 30% of schoolchildren get school-leaving certificate.
It turns out that the fate of house workers, night-watchers and deprived of all rights workers of sub-contracting companies (what is indeed an atavism of slavery - "kablanut" - in Israel's labor code) was prepared for them. No wonder that students-immigrants don't want to stay here. "La Merkhav" considers, that racism is not a queer thing and not an annoying defect of pedagogical process. Non infusions to bottomless hole in Be'ersheva budget can solve the problem.
According to Olga Filaretova racism and ethnic hatred towards Russian kids, discrimination of Russian-speaking teachers neglecting the Russian pedagogic principles are the main reason of chronic lag of Be'er-Sheva education system.
On Be'ersheva walls slogans already advised us to go to Aushwitz, but we thought it's a queer anecdote. Most Russian-speaking parents and schoolchildren know about the existence of racism and ethnic hatred in city schools. Most people think it's a normal way. The President of Israeli Children Defense Council Dr. Itzhak Kadman thinks that 80% of severe cases are based on racism and ethnic hatred and our children will continue to hear: "Russian stinkers", "Russian hoe". They may be also advised to go to "their" Russia or to Osventzem (Auschwitz)... Such relationship is called racism. It seems that teenagers - immigrants took their defense in their own hands.
For a month on several disco-parties a group called itself "Alia Panthers" spread a leaflet in Hebrew with demands of "equal and really free education for everybody; education on the level of the center of the country; more places of entertainment and leisure; equal opportunities for our parents - new immigrants; to stop violence at schools; stop racism and ethnic hatred against immigrant children". For years different politicians used our children to convince their electorate. And children learned electoral technologies, technique of public struggle, the basis of organization and other wise things.
In 1984 prof. of Jerusalem University Michael Agurski predicted that Russian-speaking community wouldn't escape the painful process of emigration and desocialization. Only the generation of our children will take the leading role in fighting discrimination. It was prof. Michael Agurski that brought the definition "Russian panthers" into life.
A leader of the group "Russian Panthers" Merav Frolova said:" The purpose of our activity is not in hooligan actions or quarrels. We see that "Black panthers" in America as well as in Israel became catalyst of culture revolution that started the process of including subculture of ethnic minority to magisterial society culture". What's so astonishing? Israeli state that built its economy on compensation for Nazi victims till now continues to take income tax from money for blood, keep compensations from Schwitz banks, humiliate and hurt righteousmen of peace and Nazi victims. Not so long ago it was a demonstration - Nazi victims near the Knesset. Contemptuously comments on full of pain but illiterate transparent in Hebrew "We were killed twicely". They kill not only old people - camp prisoners. They kill our hope - our kids.
They kill in direct and figurative meaning. The previous week in Be'ersheva Region Court the trial under the murders of the soldier Ian Shapshovich restarted. His fault was to speak Russian with his friends in public place. Restarted only in order to justify the murder - a former policeman as far as according to the judge "police conducted investigation carelessly and that doesn't give the Court an opportunity to estimate the fault of the accused."
Michael Dorfman, Olga Filaretova
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