'I can't understand who has an interest in provoking a war'

Education Minister Sa’ar baffled by haredi protest at his tightening supervision of state-supported haredi schools.

By JONAH MANDEL
October 21, 2010 08:15
2 minute read.
Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar

311_gideon sa'ar. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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Two days after the spiritual leadership of the Ashkenazi haredim convened Sunday night to confront what they consider Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s meddling in their educational system, Sa’ar expressed his bewilderment over what he called the uncalled for haredi campaign against him.

“I just can’t understand who has an interest in provoking a war, why there is a defamation campaign and who is behind it all,” he said Tuesday evening on Radio Kol Hai. Sa’ar noted that he had conducted talks the previous Wednesday with members of United Torah Judaism over the topics in debate, in what seemed to him a serious dialogue.

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Sa’ar’s statement that “haredi schools that receive 100 percent state funding by law, will learn core curriculum subjects to that extent” evoked a strong reaction from the assembly of prominent rabbis and educators from both the Lithuanian and hassidic streams.

Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman, spiritual leader of Degel HaTorah faction, drafted a resolution that “Only Torah sages have the authority to determine the course of study in the Talmudei Torah and all other educational institutions... Talmud Torah principals should not agree to any external supervision over the curriculum... or any other thing that would mar the independence of the pure education they are charged with.”

“I have respect for the Torah Sages and am not arguing with them. If I will be told that ‘we know what’s best for us and don’t need your help,’ I will respect that stance, but you must understand that there are implications to such a move,” Sa’ar told the haredi radio station. “I refuse to be in a position where our help is needed in one place, according to specific demands, but in another place we will be refused access.”

“We have reached the moment of truth, and I am willing to embark on a broad move that understands the needs of the haredi public, and to tell the Knesset, government and High Court of Justice that this is the only arrangement that will work, but for that I need partners,” said the Education Minister.



Sa’ar added that under no circumstances would he accept discrimination, nor would he allow past commitments given by haredi representatives to be reneged upon.

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