More than 50 rabbis and religious leaders in Israel have written a joint letter to support a transgender pupil injured after being physically attacked at her school.
Osher Band, 15, was hospitalised with a traumatic brain injury and organ damage after being assaulted by fellow students at the ORT Henry Ronson school in Ashkelon.
She had previously been verbally and physically threatened, including with a knife, and spent months at home as a result.
“We are shocked and pained to hear of the violence against you,” the letter said.
“The ancient Jewish sages teach us that the Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred. We are commanded to respect every person, and… to care for the ‘stranger, the orphan and the widow’ – every man, woman, girl or boy who lives among us and is in a fragile social state, such as transgender people.
“The authorities and all of society have the responsibility to find out how educational institutions can be changed so transgender students will not feel pushed aside, and of course will not endure violence of any kind.”
The rabbis' letter was also sent to Shmuel Abuav, director general of Israel’s education ministry, and Ora Gul, the headteacher of the high school.
Ms Gul previously told Haaretz that Osher Band’s behaviour had been “provocative… she uses harsh, defiant language with the teachers and students and doesn’t accept authority.”
The school said the teenager had been posting “crude, flaunting pictures” on social media.
It told the newspaper that it had tried to deal with the situation by transferring Osher Band to different classes on a number of occasions and providing lessons on LGBT tolerance, and that the 15-year old was permitted to use the girl’s bathroom and sleep along with female students on school trips. It also said that a teacher had asked to visit the family at home but was refused.
“Kids told me that in my situation, they would jump off the roof, that if they were my parents, they would kill me, that they were waiting for God to take my life,” Osher Band told Haaretz.
“My studies and my life have been damaged. The students and teachers don’t accept me as I am, and that’s the only thing I ask for.”
The school is part of ORT Israel, which told the JC that privacy concerns meant it could not respond to the claims directed at the staff “even when dealing with half-truths”.
Its statement added: “Every act of violence, minor or major alike, against a member of the ORT family will not be tolerated.
“We are doing everything we can to find, with Osher and her educators, a suitable educational solution.”