hijab jerusalem 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Jerusalem District Labor Court last week rejected a temporary appeal by a
Muslim teacher at a private Christian school to allow her to continue working
after she decided to wear a hijab in class after teaching without one for 27
The prestigious school, known as the Schmidt School for Girls, is
run by the Blessed Virgin Mary (Mary Ward Sisters) and owned by the Archdiocese
of Cologne. It is located on Nablus Road, near the Damascus Gate.
school is open to all denominations and both Christian and Muslim girls study
there. It has operated in Jerusalem for 120 years and today is classified as a
recognized but unofficial school in the city’s educational system.
hijab that the teacher, Nadra Nimri, insisted on wearing, covers her head and
neck, but not her face.
When Nimri, who taught Arabic and Islam at the
school, decided to wear the hijab, she first requested permission and was turned
down. Despite the school’s refusal, she showed up for her classes on May 22
wearing the hijab. She was summoned to the office of the principal, Michael
Kirsches, who told her she could not teach as long as she was wearing the
religious garb. Nimri left the school and did not return for the rest of the
In her petition to the court, she charged that the school
had violated the Equal Opportunity in Work Law and the Equal Rights for Women
The school argued that the school’s dress code bans the wearing of
the hijab “in order to create uniformity between the students and teachers from
Muslim and Christian backgrounds.
Because of this, the students are
required to wear school uniforms and the teachers must serve as an example to
the students in this context, as well as others.
“Wearing the hijab will
harm the pedagogic and educational considerations connected to the character and
substance of the school, which belongs to the Christian-Catholic community, and
its desire to preserve its special and singular character.”
decision, judges Dita Prozhinin, Issar Salovitsky and Uri Biran wrote that although Nimri failed to present sources in Islam ordering
the wearing of the hijab, the court was willing to assume there was such a
stricture, and that preventing it from being upheld constituted a violation of
Even so, they said, there might be other factors that
outweighed this. And, indeed, the court found that the fact that Schmidt
private school and that studying there was voluntary and not compulsory
“Given its status as a private school owned by a religious
community recognized by Israel, it determined for itself the dress code
aimed at strengthening the message of pluralism and mutual respect that
school espouses by the fact that it serves Christians and Muslims, in
create equality and unity between religions, prevent religious coercion
social pressure and create a friendly atmosphere.
Kirsches told the court
that the items of clothing that the students could wear were restricted
specified in the dress code. The hijab was not among them.
that the school had made no dress demands of the teachers, but the court
rejected this argument. The teachers were also required to uphold the
the school, which called for no differentiation between Christians and
The judges wrote that despite her protestations, Nimri was well
aware of this. When she came to the principal to ask for permission to
she offered to cut her teaching position in half and teach only Islamic
religion. The principal turned down the offer and continued to refuse to
her to wear the hijab in school.
The court also rejected the argument
that the school rule constituted unlawful discrimination because the ban
hijab allegedly had nothing to do with Nimri’s obligations as a
“The rule is logically necessary based on the character and
substance of the role of this specific school,” wrote the court. “There
clear distinction between an official and an unofficial school.
first type, freedom of religion would outweigh other considerations and a
teacher would be allowed to wear the items of clothing that were
of his faith. That is not true in this case [of a recognized but
school],” the judges said.