Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Israel reaches deal on schooling for Ethiopian Jews

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel's Education Ministry said on Monday it had reached a deal with three Jewish religious schools to admit about 100 Ethiopian Jewish students, averting further public outcry.

The schools initially refused to admit the students, drawing protests from Israel's
100,000-strong Ethiopian community and censure from Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu, who termed their refusal an attack on the country's morals.
The private ultra-Orthodox institutions denied the ban had been racially motivated,
saying the children required special funding and classes to raise their academic
standards. The three schools, all in the central city of Petah Tikvah, receive money from the government.

The Education Ministry said in a statement about half the students would be admitted to the schools when they open on Tuesday and the others would begin classes when they arrive in the city throughout the year. Most Ethiopian Jewish children attend state schools, many of them religious institutions. Israel's chief rabbis determined formally in 1973 that Ethiopian Jews were descendants of the Jewish biblical tribe of Dan and were entitled to immigrate to Israel. Tens of thousands arrived in airlifts in the 1980s and 1990s.

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