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Israel: Update to ISR25357.E of 13 November 1996 on the situation of immigrant children from the Former Soviet Union; problems faced by these children at school; reports of bullying; current status of the Ombudsman for Russian Immigrant Children; complaint procedures

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 5 June 2003
Citation / Document Symbol ISR41562.E
Reference 1
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Israel: Update to ISR25357.E of 13 November 1996 on the situation of immigrant children from the Former Soviet Union; problems faced by these children at school; reports of bullying; current status of the Ombudsman for Russian Immigrant Children; complaint procedures , 5 June 2003, ISR41562.E , available at: [accessed 30 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

In 1999, Hebrew University professor of education Tom Gumpel referred to Israeli schools as a "‘tragedy waiting to happen'" (The Jerusalem Post 8 July 1999). A study of school violence from the same year noted that, of the 28 Western nations surveyed, Israel ranked eighth highest in the prevalence of bullying (ibid. 18 June 1999). A 2000 study conducted by University of Michigan and Hebrew University scholars concluded that school violence was "a serious problem" and that there were high rates of fighting, bullying, threats of physical violence and cursing in Israeli schools (University of Michigan 19 June 2000; Dei'ah ve Dibur 28 June 2000; The Jerusalem Post 11 Aug. 2000).

The Research Directorate found a number of reports referring to specific acts of violence perpetrated against former-Soviet immigrant children among the sources consulted (The Jerusalem Post 8 July 1999; ibid. 18 June 1999; RC n.d.; RIPNET 19 Apr. 2000; JTA 2 Aug. 2002). The Israeli NGO "La Merkhav" (To the Scope) reported that, of the 192 reported incidents of ethnic hatred in 1998/1999, 146 occurred in Beer Sheva schools with 68 incidents involving violence (RIPNET 19 Apr. 2000; RC n.d.). The Research Directorate was unable to find current statistics among the sources consulted.

According to one local Russian youth advocacy group, "[a]ssaults, muggings and taunts of ‘Russian whore' and ‘stinking Russian' are commonplace" (Social May 2002). In a 2002 Jerusalem Post interview, an official representing a FSU immigrant school noted that Russian-language children are verbally and physically abused, and have a higher drop-out rate than average in the Israeli school system (30 Aug. 2002). RIPNET cited bullying and other abuse in 2000 as a reason why only 30 per cent of Russian secondary school students graduated in Beer Sheva (19 Apr. 2000).

At an institutional level, discriminatory practices against Russian-speaking immigrants include cases where students are forbidden to speak to one another in their native tongue while on school property (DCI-Israel Apr. 2002, 244; RC n.d.; Social May 2002). RIPNET reported that, although Israeli schools traditionally imposed harsh punishments for fighting, bullying and name-calling, and "Hebrew-speaking students in general have been well protected," the continuing harassment of Russian language children in schools is seen by some as a "reflection of the attitude of bureaucrats and politicians toward Russian immigrants" (19 Apr. 2000). Israeli representatives reported to the United Nations in 2002 that "concern about the quality of the integration of immigrant children into the school system has led to a range of initiatives to promote their educational and social integration [yet] [n]o systematic, reliable data exists" concerning the integration of former Soviet immigrant children (UN 27 Feb. 2002, para. 262).

A number of Israeli organizations receive complaints concerning the mistreatment of children. These include the following groups: the National Council of the Child (NCC), the Jerusalem Council for Children and Youth (JCCY), Youth in Distress (ELEM), the Council for the Child in Placement (Yeladim), the Israel Association for Child Protection (ELI), the Israeli Center for the Treatment of Child Sexual Abuse (MEITAL) and the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) (UN 27 Feb. 2002, paras. 110-116). In addition, in response to the number of racial crimes in Beer Sheva, Russian-language youth formed an advocacy group called the "Panthers of Aliyah" (Return to Israel) (RIPNET 19 Apr. 2000) or "Russian Panthers" (RC n.d.; Social May 2002). Patterned after the Black Panthers in the United States, the group formed to fight perceived racism against former Soviet immigrant youth and advocate for the introduction of Russian-language social services (ibid.; RIPNET 19 Apr. 2000).

Education programmes catering to Russian-language students have been introduced in Israel. These include the Shevah-Mofet school in Tel Aviv (Ha'aretz 3 June 2001), the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation Summer Camp in Jerusalem (The Jerusalem Post 8 June 2000) and the Shuvu/Return School Network (ibid. 30 Aug. 2002; Shuvu 30 May 2001). The latter is a Jerusalem-based, non-profit organization dedicated to helping underprivileged Russian immigrant children (ibid.), which runs a network of 42 schools and affiliates in 25 cities and towns for Jewish immigrant children or those converting to Judaism (The Jerusalem Post 30 Aug. 2002). The program has "12,000 pupils in kindergarten through 12th grade [and] one post-high school yeshiva in Jerusalem" (ibid.)

Ombudsman for Children and Youth (OYC)

The National Council for the Child (NCC) is an Israeli NGO established in 1979 that acts as a defence council for Israel's children (Israel 30 Oct. 2000; ibid. Jan. 2001). An organization that largely undertakes lobbying, advocacy and research, it does not directly provide education, welfare or other services (UN 27 Feb. 2002, para. 110). The NCC is an independent agency that does not accept funding from government agencies, relying instead on contributions and grants from other NGOs, foundations and private donors (ibid.).

The Ombudsman for Children and Youth (OCY) is a department of the NCC that receives complaints and provides consultation and information (Israel Jan. 2001). A 2002 report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child noted that the OCY maintains ombudsmen who specialize in cases concerning minors from each of the Ethiopian, Russian and Arab communities (UN 27 Feb. 2002, para. 110). The issues of concern for the Ombudsman's office include the following: placement for children with special needs, abuse in the home or in schools, cases of divorce, unjustified arrest, unwarranted interference by schools in children's private lives and child labour (IACAPAP Aug. 1999). Issues related to immigrant's legal rights, noted by the OCY as common in complaints from former-Soviet immigrants, are also undertaken by the OCY; however, these require the intervention of the NCC's Center for the Child and the Law (ibid.).

Staffed by social work and legal professionals as well as volunteers, the OCY described itself in 1999 as "the last stop" for complainants when other avenues had failed to provide satisfaction (IACAPAP Aug. 1999). In addition, it claimed that it is able to quickly obtain results because of its established connections with Israeli organizations dealing with children's issues (ibid.). Furthermore, it claims to be "well known throughout Israel as the leading advocate on behalf of all of Israel's children" (ibid.). It runs a telephone hotline (UN 27 Feb. 2002, para. 635) and it actively advertises its service in media and on student paraphernalia such as the back of school notebooks (ibid., paras. 110, 141; IACAPAP Aug. 1999).

Ombudsman Complaints Procedure

A 2000 presentation by Simona Frankel, Israeli Representative to the United Nations Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), noted that the Ombudsman received "[o]ver 8,000 calls" annually (Israel 11 Oct. 2000). Available statistics indicate that the OCY received about 8,500 referrals in 1998 (UN 27 Feb. 2002, para. 110) and there were 1,963 referrals on behalf of FSU immigrant children in 1996 (ibid., Table 6). The Research Directorate was unable to find current statistics among the sources consulted.

With specific reference to education, the OCY received complaints concerning infringement of rights, the lack of an appropriate educational framework and of physical, mental and emotional violence perpetrated by teachers and other school officials (ibid. para., 1065).

In 1999, the OCY described its complaints process as beginning when it receives a telephone or written referral submitted by the child or youth in question, or by a family member, teacher, institution, professional or concerned citizen, on their behalf (IACAPAP Aug. 1999). It then handles complaints "on the micro level by treating each call individually, providing information, advice and direction; and on the macro level, [by] working for change in policy and legislation for the fundamental issues" (ibid.). The Research Directorate was unable to obtain a more recent description of this process from the OCY or the NCC within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Defense for Children International – Israel Section (DCI-Israel). April 2002. A Mixed Bag: Lawmaking to Promote Children's Rights, Ongoing Discrimination, and Many Serious Violations. Prepared for the Pre-Sessional Working Group of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child – 31st Session. [Accessed 20 May 2003]

Dei'ah ve Dibur. 28 June 2000. Yated Ne'eman. "Violence in Secular Schools." [Accessed 21 May 2003]

Ha'aretz [Tel Aviv]. 3 June 2001. "Analysis: Terror Through Immigrant Eyes." (NEXIS)

International Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions (IACAPAP) [White Plains, NY and Yehuda, Israel]. August 1999. IACAPAP Bulletin No. X. "The Ombudsman for Children and Youth (OCY)." [Accessed 22 May 2003]

Israel. January 2001. Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations. "Israel's National Report on Follow-Up to the World Summit for Children, 2001." [Accessed 22 May 2003]

_____. 30 October 2000. Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations. "Third Committee: Children's Rights." [Accessed 23 May 2003]

_____. 11 October 2000. Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations. "Third Committee: Statement by Ms. Simona Frankel on Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children." [Accessed 22 May 2003]

The Jerusalem Post. 30 August 2002. Gail Lichtman. "Let My People Know!" (NEXIS)

_____. 11 August 2000. Gil Hoffman. "Survey Reveals Alarming Violence in Israeli Schools." (Jewish Bulletin News)

– – -. 8 June 2000. Moshe Schapiro. "Summer Plans." (NEXIS)

_____. 8 July 1999. Michael S. Arnold. "Teen Killing, Casual Style." [Accessed 20 May 2003]

_____. 18 June 1999. "Setting a Better Example." [Accessed 20 May 2003]

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA). 2 August 2002. Gil Sedan. "Tensions Erupt Between Russians, ‘Veterans' in Negev." (Jewish Bulletin News) [Accessed 2 June 2003]

Russian Community (RC). n.d. "The Russian Panthers." [Accessed 20 May 2003]

Russian Intercessory Prayer Network (RIPNET). 20 April 2000. "Children of Russian Immigrants Fight Ethnic Hatred in Israeli Schools." (News Release) (Google Cache Version)

Shuvu/Return. 30 May 2001. "Weinberg Foundation to Dedicate Shuvu Jerusalem High School Intel-Award Winning Student to Address Gathering." (News Release No. 756/Jerusalem News Service) [Accessed 22 May 2003]

Social May 2002. Charlotte Honigman-Smith. "Former ‘Jews of Silence' Speak Out About Discrimination in Israel." [Accessed 21 May 2003]

United Nations (UN). 27 February 2002. Committee on the Rights of the Child. "Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 44 of the Convention: Periodic Reports of States Parties Due in 1993, Israel." (CRC/C/8/Add.44) [Accessed 22 May 2003]

University of Michigan. 19 June 2000. "School Violence Prevalent in Israel." (News Release) [Accessed 20 May 2003]

Additional Sources Consulted

Adolescence. 2001. Vol. 36, No. 144. Shmuel Shami and Zinaida Ilatov. "Assimilation and Ethnic Boundaries: Israeli Students' Attitudes Toward Soviet Immigrants." pp. 681-695.

Unsuccessful attempt to contact the Israeli Section of the Defence for Children International

Unsuccessful attempt to contact the Executive Director of the National Council for the Child, Jerusalem.

Internet sites, including:

Bay Area Council for Jewish Rescue and Renewal

European Network of Ombudsman for Children

Google News


International Youth Foundation: Israel. An Overview of Children and Youth in Israel: Polices Programs and Philanthropy.


United Nations' Country Profiles on the Situation of Youth

World News Connection

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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