high court panel citizenship law 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
At a High Court of Justice hearing on Tuesday regarding a petition calling for
haredi educational institutions to be compelled to teach core subjects, the
justices questioned the authority of the court to impose a specific curriculum
on a sector of the population not wishing to adopt it.
RELATED:Education Ministry mum as haredim show defiance
The session, which
was attended by nine judges and headed by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinish,
comprised the “constitutional panel” required for a fundamental change in a law
such as that under discussion at the hearing.
The petition, brought last
May by former Knesset member and former education minister Professor Amnon
Rubinstein along with Maj.-Gen (res.) Elazar Stern and several other
petitioners, requests that the High Court issue an injunction against a law
passed in 2008 exempting haredi high schools, commonly known as “yeshivot
ketanot,” from teaching core subjects while continuing to allow them to receive
The petition argues that the law is unconstitutional since
it infringes on the legal rights of students at haredi high schools to receive a
broad education, infringes the basic law of human dignity and prevents students
from gaining an equal opportunity to integrate into Israeli
Lawyers for the respondents – consisting of the Knesset, the
Education Ministry and the Union for Yeshivas and Religious Institutes – argued
on Tuesday that the Knesset legitimately passed the law exempting haredi high
schools from teaching the core curriculum and that the correct measure for
addressing such an issue was not the courts but the Knesset and the public
“The right of human dignity protects the individual even if they
are outliers from the mainstream,” argued Dinah Zilber, lawyer for the
respondents. “[The law of] human dignity requires the recognition of those who
are different and not the imposition of the values of the majority upon
In response, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch expressed
concern for the level of secular education in the haredi sector but was
sceptical of the court’s ability to intervene.
“The question is what
constitutional leverage exists to cancel the [exemption] law,” she
Justice Esther Hayot questioned why the petitioners wished to
involve themselves in the choice of the haredi community. “God forbid
that I agree with the haredi stance, but this is their wish, so why interfere
with them? There is a problem in determining for a community what their own
Justice Elyakim Rubinstein also joined in criticizing the
“Do we have the right to say that the right to
education means we will force someone to learn Latin even though he doesn’t want
to?” he questioned.
“What framework exists that says that those who do
not want to study core curriculum subjects do not have the right to request
state funding?” The petition will be ruled on in the coming months.