Yishai attacks hypocrisy of ‘racist’ secular Israel

By JONAH MANDEL
June 25, 2010 02:30

Shas chairman calls on families to move their girls to Sephardi schools...and hints he’ll do the same.

3 minute read.



Interior Minister Eli Yishai

Eli Yishai 311 aj. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

With mounting criticism from his own electorate over his party’s indecisive intervention in the Emmanuel affair, Shas chairman Eli Yishai launched an offensive at Israel’s secular society, which, he said, is plagued by ethnic discrimination far worse than that in the haredi sector, while reiterating that the true solution to discrimination involves creating alternative Sephardi frameworks.

“The true facts should be stated, once and for all… only one Sephardi justice presides in the Supreme Court among 14 Ashkenazi justices… 12 prime ministers led Israel since the state’s founding, not one of them Sephardi… of the 19 IDF chiefs of staff, only six were Sephardi, and the list goes on,” Yishai said in an interview Thursday with Yom Leyom, Shas’s weekly newspaper, noting also the differences in income and education between the ethnic groups, with the  Sephardim at a disadvantage.

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Yishai also toned down the rhetoric against Yoav Laloum, who had filed the original petition against the segregated school and was recently doomed by Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to losing his place in the afterlife as a result.

While Yishai reiterated that Halacha in generally forbids turning to secular courts, as he stressed in Sunday’s faction meeting, he managed to credit Laloum with “good intentions,” even if the court petition proved counterproductive.

“The true and correct solution to eradicating discrimination is to establish religious Sephardi educational institutions,” and not to conduct court battles, Yishai stressed in the interview. “This is one of the reasons Shas was founded.”

Yishai tried to set the track straight on his movement’s involvement in the Emmanuel case, telling Yom Leyom it was Shas that first acted to provide a solution to the Sephardi girls who “separated out” in the local Beit Ya’acov.

“Two-and-a-half years ago [Religious Services Minister] Yaakov Margi toured Emmanuel, and was shocked at what he saw in the school. Following that, we had an extensive meeting and decided to found a Sephardi school, so that those girls wouldn’t feel discriminated against, despite the deficits the school has, due to the small size of the public it serves. Today, it is one of the best schools we have.”

Much criticism has been leveled at Yishai personally, since he, like other prominent Sephardi haredim, sends his children to Ashkenazi schools. Yishai has explained that he didn’t want to fight his battles on his children’s backs, and they would have had to take buses to more distant Sephardi institutions while they could walk to the nearby Ashkenazi school.

But now it seems as though his children should get used to the idea of changing schools next year.

“I say this to myself and my friends – it is time for all the Sephardi men [committed to Torah] to enroll their daughters in Sephardi elementary and high schools, which is how we will ‘return the crown to its former glory,’” he said.

Yishai also noted in the interview that he approached Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush, and the two agreed on forming a joint rabbinical committee that will have the authority to decide on issues involving accepting Sephardi girls to Ashkenazi institutions.

Yishai’s increasing response to the criticism that he and his party didn’t do enough in the Emmanuel affair might be in part due to the fact that former Shas leader Aryeh Deri has become part of the public discourse on the matter, though Yishai said he is not concerned by the possibility of Deri starting another party as an alternative to Shas.

After a Channel 2 poll found that a party led by Deri would win seven seats and bring Shas down from 11 to eight, a Gal Hadash poll broadcast on Channel 10 found that Shas voters want him back in politics.

According to the poll, 63 percent of Shas voters want a Deri comeback and 45% said they would vote for a party led by him. Among the general public, only 31% want Deri back in politics and only 15% would vote for a party led by him.

Asked how Shas was handling the Emmanuel affair, 52.5% of Shas voters said poorly and just 19% said well. Among the general public, 61% said the party mishandled the crisis and just 13.5% said the party handled it well.

Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.


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