Emmanuel parents ordered to jail

By JONAH MANDEL
June 16, 2010 01:42

Hassidim say they won’t obey ruling to send daughters to school.




PARENTS FROM Emmanuel sing and dance yesterday at

Emmanuel 311. (photo credit: Channel 10)

Emmanuel parents who do not inform the High Court of Justice in writing by Wednesday that they will obey the court’s order to return their daughters to the Beit Ya’acov school there will be imprisoned for two weeks beginning Thursday, Justices Edmond Levy, Edna Arbel and Hanan Meltzer ruled late Tuesday afternoon.

The Slonim Hassidim, who initiated the separation of several dozen girls from the rest of the school for what they say were religious reasons, have no intention of backing down from their refusal. They say they will march proudly to prison, accompanied by their Admor, Rabbi Shlomo Barazovsky, as well as other leading rabbis and supporters, all of whom would consider imprisonment part of a battle fought for Torah.

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The dramatic conclusion of months of hearings, rulings and mediation attempts followed a stormy hearing earlier in the day, when hassidic parents stated that they would not obey the court order obliging them to send their daughters back to the school as long their rabbis objected.

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The justices reiterated that their jail ruling was a response to the parents’ ongoing refusal to heed the court, and stressed that the segregation in the school was on ethnic and not religious grounds.

The justices also noted that the court had warned the parents that they could be facing imprisonment, and that the fines that had been imposed on them would be collected. Any imprisoned parent who accepts the court’s terms will be released.

Slonim parents break out in song in courtroom

At the end of the hearing, the Slonim parents and their supporters in the courtroom were led in a unified cry of “Shema Yisrael” and “The Lord is our God.”

They then broke out in a song expressing the faith that “evil plots will be disbanded, since God is with us [Utzu etza vetufar, ki imanu E-l].” Court security at first attempted to evacuate the singing men, but eventually let them finish the song, after which they left the courtroom.

“This is a battle over the Jewish religion, and the guardians of the religion, who have won all their past battles, will be victorious here, too,” Avraham Luria, a Slonim Hassid and member of the breakaway parents’ committee, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday evening.

“We are like the Hasmoneans who revolted against Antiochus.

We will march to prison, led by our Admor and the rest of the [haredi rabbinical leadership], accompanied by all of the country’s haredi Jews.”

Luria pointed out that according to the court decision, both fathers and mothers were facing incarceration.

“No one has yet to die from a fortnight in prison,” he said, “but I certainly hope that the government of Israel will have the tools to take care of the hundreds of children whose parents are going to prison and find enough foster families on such short notice.”

In addition, Luria continued, “some of the women [facing imprisonment] have babies and are breastfeeding. What will they do with the babies? And what about the women who are in the advanced stages of pregnancy? Will the jail provide gynecologists to ensure their health?” Barazovsky, who will be heading the march to jail, was holding consultations on Tuesday night with other prominent hassidic leaders as to their response to the court’s decisive ruling.

Thursday procession to prison planned

The planned Thursday procession to prison is expected to galvanize the haredi street into a massive show of support for the hassidim and against the High Court. Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) has already announced that he will set up his office outside the walls of the prison on Thursday.

Yoav Lalom, who, with the Noar Kahalacha nonprofit organization, filed the original petition, wouldn’t comment on the court ruling.

Levy, who headed the judicial panel, had suggested to the parents in the morning hearing that the girls return to the school for the remaining two weeks of the term, and try to work out a solution over the summer vacation.

The parents’ attorney, Mordechai Green, then consulted with rabbis, presumably including Barazovsky, and told the court that in a conflict between the laws of Torah and those of men, the divine decrees must prevail.

The response raised Levy’s ire.

“I don’t know of any legal obligation for court rulings to receive the approval of some rabbi or another,” said Levy, who is himself religious. “I’m terrified by the fact that a rabbi instructs his community to act against a court verdict.”

In the ruling on imprisonment later in the day, the justices alluded to the fact that the parents gave precedence to their rabbis over the court, and repeated what they had said more than once during the hearing: “There is no need to note that our verdict is not subject to, or stipulated by, the approval of any exterior factor.”

The court had ruled that the physical separations in the Beit Ya’acov that had been built to accommodate the hassidic track that the Slonim parents had initiated and in which some 70 girls studied, were illegal.

But once the barriers were removed, the parents refused to return their girls to the school unless the rest of the pupils’ parents agreed to a very stringent code of conduct and attire – an initiative that didn’t succeed.

As a result, at the instruction of Barazovsky, the alternative-track parents tried to send their daughters to schools outside Emmanuel, an effort that was stymied by the Education Ministry.

Green told Radio Kol Hai before the court’s decision was publicized that it was not clear why the parents should be held in contempt of court, since the original petition by Lalom and Noar Kahalacha was not against the parents, but against the Independent Education Center (Hinuch Atzma’i), the network under which the school operates.

The Independent Education Center, following the original court ruling, had ordered all the parents to return their girls to the school.

The notion of holding the parents in contempt of court, Green said, had only come after the court summoned them for testimony, and if the charge of contempt was not applicable to the original defendant, it should not be used against the parents.

Meanwhile, attempts are intensifying within the haredi world to reach understandings on issues relating to ethnic discrimination in Independent Education Center schools throughout the country, as the issue has flared up several times over the past 20 years.

An agreement, those involved say, might prevent future instances of the court “meddling” in haredi education, as some perceive it.


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