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Equality, Inequality, and the Tebeka High Court Ruling

Mandel Program for Local Leadership in Afula hosts sessions with theater professionals to examine Supreme Court ruling on school rejection of Ethiopian students

Over the last few weeks at the Mandel Program for Local Leadership in Afula, we have focused on the topic of "Equality and Inequality," as part of our efforts to broaden the perspectives of our fellows on substantial social issues. We held a series of sessions led by the theater professionals Renana Raz and Ofer Amram, in which we examined the Tebeka High Court of Justice ruling and produced an audio presentation on this important legal event.

The Tebeka nonprofit, which advocates for justice and equality for Ethiopian-Israelis, petitioned the High Court of Justice over the non-acceptance of Ethiopian-Israeli students to Orthodox religious schools in Petah Tikva that are not official state schools but are recognized by the Ministry of Education. The petition was filed against the Petah Tikva municipality and the Ministry of Education. In 2011, the Court ruled that the right to equality in education overrides the right of any group to its own separate educational institutions:

"The refusal of any educational institution – regardless of its status within the education system – to accept pupils on grounds of their ethnic origin or community affiliation directly contradicts the principles and founding values of the constitutional-democratic system in Israel, by which all Israeli residents are bound. Incidents of inequality and discrimination are fundamentally unacceptable, and the relevant authorities are required to act with determination to eradicate them, using the full force of the authority granted to them by law."

We decided to involve Renana Raz and Ofer Amram in our work on the basis of their play "The Hearing." In this play, they read out the protocol of the hearing given to Adam Varta, a high-school philosophy teacher, by the Ministry of Education and the ORT Educational Network, after he expressed his political opinions in a class that he was teaching. In the play, the actors swap roles, alternately presenting the perspective of each side in the affair. We asked them to carry out a similar group activity with our fellows in order to explore the Tebeka ruling and its consequences.

Led by Raz and Amram, the group conducted close readings of the protocols of the court proceedings, of the Bass Commission, and of the Knesset Education Committee, as well as correspondence between Tebeka, the Ministry of Education, the Petah Tikva municipality, and the parents of the children who were rejected by the school. The fellows then prepared audio recordings made in their own family and social environments, when their families encountered different kinds of inequality or discrimination.

At the end of the process, Raz and Amram prepared a "radio program" that summarized the fellows' study of the Tebeka ruling. The program consisted of recordings of the story of the event as told by the fellows themselves.