Religious students face backlash for Purim skit mocking Mizrahi Jews

Clip from Ulpanat Horev in Jerusalem goes viral online; Shas chief Aryeh Deri labels it ‘wretched and outrageous racism’; school apologizes, education minister calls for probe

Students at the Horev girls high school in Jerusalem in a Purim skit mocking Mizrahi Jews. (Screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Students at the Horev girls high school in Jerusalem in a Purim skit mocking Mizrahi Jews. (Screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

A racist Purim video made by religious high school girls in Jerusalem sparked a wave of condemnations when it began circulating widely online on Thursday.

The YouTube video made by students at Ulpana Horev (the Hebrew term for a religious girls’ high school) was pulled down just a couple of hours after it began to generate backlash, more than a month after it was posted online.

In the clip, titled “If the ulpana were Mizrahi,” students can be seen with dark paint on their faces, giving themselves new more Mizrahi-sounding names, and acting according to gross stereotypes of Middle Eastern Jews.

In various sections of the video the girls, sporting a natural look, contrast ostensibly cultured, polite Ashkenazi behavior, with the Mizrahi version — in which they are smeared with dark blotches and appear to act in a base, boorish and rude manner.

In one part of the video, a woman who appears to be a teacher or administrator also appears.

Purim is often used as a time for satirical and humorous skits and videos, but many thought the clip crossed the line.

Education Minister Yoav Kisch of Likud said he was “horrified to watch the appalling video which shows terrible manifestations of racism that we must not accept in any way — neither in society nor in Israeli educational institutions.”

Kisch said he had been in touch with the director of the Education Ministry’s Jerusalem district and called for a full investigation of the video and those involved. “We cannot allow racism in our schools!”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he “completely rejects” the video, adding that the racism in the clip “does not represent the national religious public. Discrimination and racism have no place in the State of Israel.”

Shas chief Aryeh Deri tweeted that watching the video “caused me great pain.”

“It is wretched and outrageous racism, prejudice, contempt and mockery,” Deri added. The Shas leader said he was calling on the heads of the school to understand that “this is not just a video for Purim, it is pure racism against huge populations in Israel. Do everything you can to uproot it from the source.”

Students at the Horev girls high school in Jerusalem in a Purim skit mocking Mizrahi Jews. (Screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Labor MK Naama Lazimi, who is of Moroccan descent, said that the “severe racism” of the teenagers “crushed my heart.”

“How deep must the hatred and contempt for Mizrahi Jews run in their communities and their education to lead to this type of expression?” she asked.

The school issued a statement Thursday evening saying that it “apologized and was sorry” for the video despite its intention to be a “satirical parody” for Purim. The school said that the video should never have been created, and that it “does not reflect at all” the activities of the school, which it said includes students from all different backgrounds.

The school said that its staff would be meeting next week to discuss the issue and to “learn lessons from it, so that such a thing does not happen again.”

The students involved in the video circulated a statement saying that the clip was created “in a completely humorous way,” and was designed out of “joy, love and respect for the traditions, music and culture” of Mizrahi communities.

The students added that at this moment, “during a time of division and dispute in the nation,” they hoped to spread love and not be “dragged into unnecessary arguments about hatred.”

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