Says order is a part of an effort to make parents feel safe in light of recent attacks in Jerusalem.
Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni decided on Thursday to bar Arabs from working in three kindergartens in the city during school hours. Shimoni said his move was prompted by pressure from parents fearing a terror attack.
Shimoni said that as of Thursday armed guards will be posted at the entrance to seven kindergarten complexes accommodating more than 100 children. The money for the security guards, estimated in the tens of thousands of shekels, was partly donated from abroad, it was revealed.
Shimoni wrote on his Facebook page: “Although the Public Security Ministry is responsible for placing security guards, I’ve instructed putting armed guards in every kindergarten complex close to construction sites in which Arabs are employed. Also, in kindergartens where protected rooms are being built by Arab workers, the work will be stopped until further notice.”
A municipality official said the directives were not to stay in effect “until further notice” but until “things calm down,” due to the tension among parents after the recent terror attack in Jerusalem.
The city’s security director, Effie Mor, said parents who felt their children were unprotected had approached the mayor and himself.
“We discussed the situation with all the relevant city officials and especially the tension among the residents. We’ve received many calls from mothers afraid for their children, saying they saw a suspicious person near the kindergarten, or reports of workers in construction sites,” he said.
“Because of the tension we decided to create a few days of respite for the residents, so they can have some quiet and feel safe over the next few days,” he said.
Residents collected signatures in several kindergartens Wednesday for a petition urging the mayor to post armed guards at schools. The mayor had said he would have “security forces” patrol the schools, but the parents said patrols are not enough and insisted on posting a security guard at every kindergarten.
MKs from the left and center condemned the move.
Meretz leader Zehava Gal-on blasted the move as illegal and unjustified. “I understand perfectly well the fears felt by the parents of Ashkelon, who are afraid of Arab laborers, despite the fact that most of them are citizens, just like them. These parents, like us all, hear government ministers repeatedly equating the terrorists of recent days with any and every Arab. They are being exposed to statements meant to erase the humanity of all Arabs and convince us that they are all potential terrorists, all traitors, and that this conflict is a religious one between all Jews and all Muslims …. The role of parents is to fear for their children. But at the same time, the role of real leaders in such times is to work to allay these fears, and be strong enough to not bow down to primal fears. The role of leaders – and I am talking about the Mayor of Ashkelon – is not to choose the easy path, that bows down to incitement and racism.”
MK Issawi Freij (Meretz) called on the mayor to retract his decision. “Shimoni’s decision to stop Israeli Arabs from working in Ashkelon is the worst kind of racism. Using the shabby excuse of ‘sense of security,’ Shimoni wants to purge Ashkelon of Arabs and pollute it with anti-Semitic racism. I call on Interior Minister Gilad Erdan and the chairman of the Local Authorities Union to denounce Shimoni and insist he retract his decision,” Freij said.