Court freezes decision to halt gender-separate Civil Service course

The course for men began in January, while a course for haredi women was slated to begin in October.

Haredi man in Jerusalem  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Haredi man in Jerusalem
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The National Labor Court froze a lower court decision on Sunday that would have shut down gender-separate Civil Service training courses for haredi (ultra-Orthodox) participants and instructed that the class be allowed to continue until a final ruling is issued.
Earlier this month, the Jerusalem Labor Court instructed the state to either add 10 women to the men-only course or shut it down.
The course, called the “Influencers,” is a pilot program designed to help integrate haredi graduates into the Civil Service for employment in government ministries, national bodies and local government.
The course for men began in January, while a course for haredi women was slated to begin in October.
However, the Israel Women’s Network, a women’s rights advocacy group, submitted a petition against the Civil Service Commission, saying gender separation contravened Israel’s labor laws and discriminated against women.
The organization also argued that the state had not attempted to offer a mixed-gender course for haredim. It said demands for gender-separate learning came only from extremist voices and that there are haredi men and women who are willing to study with members of the opposite sex.
The Jerusalem Labor Court agreed with the petition, however, the state appealed the ruling.
The state argued that canceling the course would harm efforts to integrate ultra-Orthodox men and women into the workforce, particularly in the Civil Service.
In its appeal, the state argued there was no practical feasibility of having haredi men and women study together, but did note that graduates of the program would be employed in a mixed-gender environment.
The state also contended that abolishing the course would be unfair toward those who had studied in it for the last three months, and would harm the trust of the haredi public in its attempt to integrate members of the ultra-Orthodox sector into its ranks.
It said the programs were not offered simultaneously in order to learn from the pilot program and apply those lessons to subsequent classes. The men’s course was started first, the state said, simply because haredi men have a dramatically lower employment rate than haredi women.
In the future, it said, men’s and women’s courses would be offered simultaneously.
The Israel Women’s Network echoed the court in saying the Civil Service Commission had not examined the possibility of a mixed-gender course, and said it hoped the National Labor Court would, like the lower courts, reject the state’s arguments and abolish the course.