Rally set to support Emmanuel parents

Shas condemns court ruling but doesn’t tell followers to join protest.

By JONAH MANDEL
June 17, 2010 02:43
Haredi riots in Jaffa

Haredi riots in Jaffa 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

It appears that nothing less than divine intervention can prevent the imminent two-week imprisonment of 43 couples from Emmanuel, mainly Slonim Hassidim, who refuse to comply with the High Court of Justice’s order to return their daughters to the Beit Ya’acov school, whose religious standards they believe are not stringent enough.

A massive rally will take place in Jerusalem’s Romema neighborhood starting at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, led by both hassidic and Lithuanian rabbis. In a rare move, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the supreme halachic authority for Ashkenazi haredim, said he would attend, making it likely that the turnout would be huge.

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Elyashiv has ordered all yeshiva and kollel students to participate, a rare move as it requires them to suspend their study.

A smaller demonstration will take place at the same time in Bnei Brak.

The Emmanuel parents will be at the Jerusalem demonstration. Following the rally, they will walk, presumably accompanied by much of the crowd, to the Russian Compound. From there, the men will be taken to Ma’asiyahu Prison, while the women will be taken to the Neveh Tirza Prison.

“We will enter prison happily, since by doing so we will be sanctifying the name of God publicly,” Rabbi Avraham Luria, a Slonim hassid facing prison time, told The Jerusalem Post in a hoarse whisper Wednesday night. “These are historic moments that will be studied by future generations.”

Several months ago, the court had ruled that the physical separations in the Beit Ya’acov that had been built to accommodate the more stringent track that the Slonim parents had initiated, in which some 70 girls studied, was illegal.

But once the barriers were removed, the parents refused to return their daughters 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.

During the Tuesday hearing, the Emmanuel parents told the High Court that their rabbis’ orders took precedence over the those of the court. Later that day, the panel of three justices decided to send the parents to prison for refusing to send their daughters back to the school.

Asked by the Post who will look after the children whose parents face incarceration, Luria said that he wasn’t sure, since the brief period since the court’s decision left them with little time to prepare, but neighbors and family members will do their best.

There is a chance that the parents will bring their children with them to the Russian Compound, but a decision on that had yet to be made last night.

“We are sorry that Justice Edmond Levy crystalized the hearing into the question if, God forbid, the court is superior to the Torah. Since he put it like that, the answer is clear following the order ‘and you shall do all that you are ordered to do’ [by rabbis],” Luria added.

Attempts to prevent the imprisonment of the 86 parents were under way throughout Wednesday and into the night. Former Shas chairman Aryeh Deri presented the Slonim Hassidim with a proposal under which the girls would return to the school for the remaining two weeks on condition that efforts were launched to open a private school for them for the next school year.

It was unclear whether the hassidim would accept such an offer, and whether the court would accept this compromise as sufficient to cancel the imprisonment order.

Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush will be meeting with President Shimon Peres on Thursday morning and will raise the Emmanuel affair. The meeting was arranged over a week ago, but Porush is expected to ask the president to intervene, which the latter could do, if he were so inclined.

Though haredi politicians have declared that Thursday’s protest will unite the entire haredi street, it isn’t clear how many Shas members or other Sephardi haredim will be at the protests, though their leadership has decried the court ruling.

“I’m shocked by the fact that they [Yoav Lalom and Noar Kahalacha, an NPO] went to court,” Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef told Radio Barama on Wednesday, referring to the original petition against the splitting of the Emmanuel school. “It’s not something that is done.”

Ironically, Yosef’s son, Rabbi Ya’acov Yosef, was the driving force behind Lalom’s petition, which charged that the segregation in the Beit Ya’acov school was on ethnic grounds, a claim the court accepted.

Shas Party Chairman Eli Yishai expressed his shock in the upcoming weekend’s Yom Leyom over the court’s decision to imprison dozens of Torahlearners, just because they dared to listen to their rabbis. He linked the ruling to another court decision, from Monday, that deprived kollel students of minimum income-guarantee payments, a further blow to the Torah world.

But neither Ovadia Yosef nor Yishai called on their followers to join the protest, and Religious Services Minister Ya’acov Margi on Wednesday evening explicitly called on Shas members not to demonstrate.

The Jerusalem rally is expected to result in several hours of blocked roads and traffic disruptions. Following riots in Jaffa on Wednesday over archeological excavations, police said they are also preparing for the possibility of nationwide disturbances by haredi protesters.

Police Insp-Gen. David Cohen ordered the police’s head of operations, Cmdr. Nissim Mor, to draw up plans to confront rioters if necessary.

“At this stage... the Israel Police is attempting to go down the path of dialogue and to try and prevent the looming demonstrations,” police said in a statement Wednesday.

“We call on the heads of the haredi community to show responsibility and ask members of the community to act with restraint. The Israel Police allows the holding of protests but does not allow acts of assault or disruption to the peace.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in his first public comments on the situation in Emmanuel, called for restraint at a time when Israel was facing “existential dangers.”

Yaakov Lappin and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.


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