Efrat Daniel, in senior at Shalhevet HaDarom (“שלהבת הדרום“) High School in Dimona, has been suspended from school for the last three months because she worked at kosher McDonalds during the previous summer.
Dimona is a small desert town near Be’ersheva in the south of Israel known for its nuclear reactor and a settlement of black Hebrews. The population is diverse due to waves of immigrants who have settled there. Because of the high number of immigrants, the Jewish Agency educational has been actively involved in local educational projects. In 2008 the Dimona’s school system won the National Award for Excellence in 2008.
However Efrat went to one of the local semi-private Haredi run schools. Haredi schools are private in the sense that they are allowed wide latitude in choice of curriculum and policy, but public in the sense that they receive state funding. Her school received 618,165 NIS from the department of education in 2010.
Efrat’s school objected to the fact that her co-workers included men and perhaps also the standard McDonalds employee costume. When they found out several months into the year how she spent her summer they expelled her. The family says that the school would only let her daughter back if she attended a post-graduation seminar for girls that would conflict with national service. In addition, she had to first complete all the work that she has missed since December when they expelled her and also agree not to work at the McDonalds.
The mother who is upset at the expulsion and the effect it had on her daughter said:
Why did they throw her out of school? For working over her summer vacation? This situation has really hurt us all. When all her school friends were taking the annual school trip, my daughter was at home crying.
As the expulsion progressed with no resolution, Efrat became increasingly depressed. To pass the time, she began working again at McDonalds. Efrat is willing to give up her job, but only if she can go back to school. Her mother also agrees to the requirement to give up the McDonalds job even though she disagrees with the school’s policy: “I don’t think it’s a problem to work at a mixed place, I mean, our daily lives are mixed.”.
However, the other conditions are unrealistic for the family. Efrat is not able to learn the material on her own and the school will not provide a tutor. Additionally, she would like to do national service and is unwilling to make a commitment that would preclude that.
Efrat’s mother, Shlomit, eventually turned to the municipality for help. The municipality originally worked out a deal that Efrat could go back to school if she agreed not to work, but then the school began adding additional conditions. The municipality did not specify what those conditions were.
The school says that the expulsion is the parent’s fault. They weren’t sufficiently committed to the modesty code. The head of the school, Rabbi Yaakov Hemed told the press “the school has a code and both mother and daughter have signed it. We are committed to all the other parents. When one girl does something that is in direct contrast to the code, we speak to her and if needed, suspend her from school for one or two days or more.”
He denied that the school forbid students to do national service, but he did confirm that they preferred students to do teacher’s seminary rather than service. He did not specifically deny that they had added a post graduation requirement for Efrat that would conflict with army service.
Dr Imri Fried, the manager and owner of the McDonalds where Efrat works is very upset by the situation. He is appalled that a girl trying to earn a living to help out her family would be expelled from school and that the school and a democratic state would allow her future to be injured based on non-compliance to religious demands. He questions the legality of the municipality’s compromise which forced the girl to stop working. He also holds the municipality responsible for providing tutors to Efrat if it can’t get the school to provide the education her parents and the state paid for her to receive. He told the press,
As a citizen of this country I’m ashamed of what has happened in Dimona and wonder if Netanyahu really wants Democracy in Israel, given that what is happening here is a theocracy and not a democracy.
He called for the legal advisor to the government to investigate the situation. In the meantime Fried is helping to pay for the tutor so she can prepare for her bagrut.
Radio South originally broke the story last week. Channel 2 followed up with an interview.
- Girl expelled from school – for working with boys , Ynet, 2012-03-07.
- דתייה עבדה במקדונלד‘ס וסולקה מבית הספר , Channel 2/Mako, 2012-03-06.
- נערה עבדה במסעדה עם בנים – וסולקה מביה“ס , Ynet, 2012-03-05.
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