Massive haredi demonstration 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post))
The court won’t dare retain its order to imprison the mothers.
services are against it; it would cause a huge public outcry and make the
justices look even worse than they already do. They’ve already made their point
with the fathers,” a very prominent hassid predicted late Tuesday morning, as he
stood with the Slonim Hassidim and their supporters in the foyer just outside
the cordoned-off doors of the High Court of Justice’s courtroom B.
the closed chambers, three justices heard the arguments and predicaments
mothers, who requested absolution, and three fathers, all from Emmanuel,
requested furlough or postponement of the two-week prison term the same
had sentenced them to the week before.
The smiles on the faces of the
first mothers exiting the courtroom when the doors finally opened seemed
testimony to the court’s decision to free them, but the panel had yet to
announce its decision. Their lawyer Mordechai Green spoke of the
attitude the justices had shown to the parents. He was confident his
wouldn’t have to see the prison from the inside, in accordance with the
recommendations of the welfare services and even the request of
Laloum. Laloum had on Friday petitioned the court to release the 35
fathers and not bother with the mothers, as the incarceration wasn’t
end of causing the parents to return their daughters to the reunited
As far as the defendants were concerned, the whole affair
stemmed from a secular court’s misunderstanding of haredi mentality, or
the deliberate persecution of their Torah-centered lifestyle, as evident
other rulings by the same court, such as the recent decision deeming the
incomeguarantee payments received uniquely by kollel students unlawful.
Slonim Admor went as far as equating the court’s stance on the Emmanuel
to the “powers of impurity of the sitra achra [other side, evil force]”
letter he sent to his hassidim on Wednesday.
We are not racists, the
mainstream Ashkenazi haredim reiterated in the mass demonstration last
and in every other opportunity since; the segregation at Beit Ya’acov
was on religious, not racial grounds. Testimony to
this is not only the fact that 27 percent of the girls in the hassidic
were of Sephardi ancestry, but primarily the outlook of the independent
inspector the Education Ministry appointed, attorney Mordechai Bass, who
to the court that while the separation was against the regulations, its
motivation was not racism.
The court took Bass’ outlook into account, as
well as Laloum’s claim that the segregation was indeed racial, and
the outcome of the division. “While the underlying purpose of the
the Beit Ya’acov school] is in dispute between the sides, nobody can
results – separation between most of the students whose families are of
Ashkenazi origin, to their peers whose families are of Sephardi origin,”
Edmond Levy wrote in the decision from 2009 that ruled away the
within the school.
Politicians from United Torah Judaism are leading
their public discourse on the topic with the racial question and the
of locking away parents whose only felony was to listen to their
leaders on a matter concerning the education of their children.
their impassioned voices at Sunday’s heated UTJ faction meeting in the
outside Ma’asiyahu Prison, where the fathers, some of them Sephardi, are
their time, one could almost forget that the court sentenced the parents
prison not for racism but rather for contempt of its decision to return
girls to the state-funded school, once the separation was undone.
average Israeli can identify with the principles of freedom of belief
education, and certainly would not rejoice over the imprisonment of
parents, even haredi ones, but will not tolerate an affront against the
of the rule of law, especially by a group that enjoys legislated state
The court’s Tuesday decision to uphold its imprisonment order on
nine of the 22 mothers, who will begin their terms only after their
released, came as a surprise to the Slonim supporters, who had backed
glorified the parents’ decision to remain defiant in the face of an
contradicted their beliefs. If they had thought that the legal system
suffice with incarcerating the fathers to avoid the painful scenes of
tearfully departing from the small children, the court seems to have
to these religious believers that it too will risk unpopular decisions
ideals it believes in and professes.
It remains to be seen what the court
decides in its Sunday hearing on the parents’ ongoing refusal to heed
The struggle has crystalized into a head-on collision between two
and is forcing the Ashkenazi haredi politicians, who adhere primarily to
rabbis but are also a component of the coalition, to become as vocal as
against the court, without overstepping the limits of the coalition and