Although in practice they have been breaking the law for many years, Sasha and Yana Zinigrad, who homeschool their five children in Ariel, have decided to use the legal system to pursue their goals. The Compulsory Education Law in its current form "relates to homeschooling like it's a negative arrangement," Sasha claims. Zinigrad is heading an initiative to force the Education Ministry - preferably through dialogue, but if necessary through the High Court of Justice - to recognize homeschooling as a legitimate, legal option. "We are prepared to petition [the High Court] but we have taken all possible steps to exhaust all possibilities to settle with the Education Ministry peacefully," he says. "The High Court is a means and not an end. We are not pleased to go to the High Court. We wanted first of all to negotiate with the Education Ministry and it wasn't successful." A group of approximately 100 homeschoolers, represented by law firm Kibiri-Navo-Keidar, sent a letter to former education minister Limor Livnat requesting that a committee be formed to reconsider the issue of homeschooling. The homeschoolers were not satisfied, as they believed the ministry's committee was "not serious," says Zinigrad. "We know this committee wasn't made up of people who had studied the issue." When Yuli Tamir became education minister the group's optimism was renewed. They sent her the correspondence with Livnat and were told Tamir would arrange a meeting after she had studied the issue. This, Zinigrad explains, took place before the war and the parents did not want to press the matter. But now, he says, "We want to wait weeks and not months for this meeting and if it doesn't happen we will go to the High Court because we don't want to leave it unresolved." Because homeschooling in Israel has only become popular in the past decade, the Compulsory Education law does not relate to it. "We say this law didn't speak about homeschooling because homeschooling didn't exist in 1949 when the law was passed," says Zinigrad. "We think the Compulsory Education Law was an enlightened move for that time, [but] you can't take a law from 1949 that shows one reality and apply it to another reality." According to a special education bulletin published by the ministry's director-general in April 2006, "The education system's position is that the place of school-age children is in an educational institution. The educational authorities - the local authorities and the Education Ministry - should do everything possible to provide a suitable educational framework for every child. Accordingly, homeschooling requests will be approved only in cases in which it can be proved beyond all doubt that the request for homeschooling is necessary due to a longstanding worldview that rules out education in any institution whatsoever..." The homeschoolers are demanding that homeschooling either fall under the Basic Law of Human Dignity and Liberty or that the Compulsory Education Law be reinterpreted or changed to recognize homeschooling. In addition, they do not want the ministry to define how homeschooling will be practiced. "The Education Ministry will recognize that the supervision it offers is not relevant," says Zinigrad. "The Education Ministry can check that the child isn't neglected, that the home is OK. You don't need tests for that. There's no need for pedagogical supervision." In a statement to In Jerusalem, the ministry responds: "The Compulsory Education Law is a liberal, egalitarian law that obligates the state to supply education to all who are covered by the law. "An exemption from this law obligates the state to ensure there are no openings in public education that allow separatist groups to provide education according to a worldview that is incompatible with the state's education law." As for a change in the law, a spokeswoman for the education minister told IJ, "That will be determined at the level of ministry policy." - N.V.

Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin

Think others should know about this? Please share