Casual racism in the hasaot WhatsApp

My daughter is going into 2nd grade this year. For the first time, she will be going on a haasa’ah – a private mini-bus arranged by the school to pick up kids from their houses.

The school created a What’sApp group to arrange the particulars.

Today the following message was sent:

Dear Parents,

We are arranging hasaot for the upcoming school years.

Option A – Hasan. 500 shekels for pick up and drop off.

Option B – Morris. 600 shekels for pick up and drop off.

Please update me privately which option you choose.

Thank you.

I was shocked. Surely she wasn’t sending a message to check if parents were willing to pay 100 shekels more for a (probably) Jewish driver.

I called her immediately. I blamed my lack of understanding on my poor Hebrew.

Excuse me, I don’t understand. Are you asking us to choose which driver we prefer solely based off of his name? Is there something I’m missing? Is Morris like a parent at the school or something?

“Well, you know. Hasan is from.. you know.. the ‘pezura’. He’s Bedouin. Some parents don’t feel comfortable, so we thought to ask what the majority prefer.”

That’s racist. And horrible. Do we know anything about Hasan? Morris?

“No, G-d forbid. Nothing racist. Just some parents, especially those with kids going into first grade, have asked about a Jewish driver. So I’m letting the parents decide. It’s a question of comfort.”

That’s terrible. You didn’t provide any other information about them.

“I’m just presenting options and letting the parents decide. Who do you prefer?”

Um, what? Can you send me their numbers and I’ll speak to both of them and then I’ll decide, after seeing who seems more responsible and caring?

“Why do you want to talk to them? Just tell me which option you prefer.”

Are you serious? You won’t give me their numbers so I can learn anything about them?

“Okay, okay. I’ll send you their numbers.”

But she didn’t.

She didn’t need to.

Because less than 5 minutes later, she posted in the group that it was clear people preferred option B.

Full disclosure – Morris has driven hasaot at the preschools that many of these parents send to, and many probably do know him. But that was not communicated in the message, nor in the phone call when I called to ask for more information on the drivers.

The kids who go to my school are not wealthy. 100 shekels per month is significant. But they’re happy to pay it, for the privilege of having a (possibly?) Jewish driver.

How will the Arab minority within Israel ever feel a part of Israel society if our knee jerk reaction is to cut them off, distrust them, before even giving them a chance?

I’m sorry, Hasan.

We need to do better.

About the Author
Menucha Saitowitz earned her degree in psychology and religion from Dartmouth University in 2010. Since making Aliyah in 2011, She has worked to develop Israel's periphery, with an emphasis on the South. She loves that she and her husband are raising their 4 sabras in Be'er Sheva, the heart of the Negev