Petitioners: 2nd Emmanuel school rewards ethnic seperation

“If the Slonim Hassidim open a school of their own, one subgroup after another will ask for their own school.”

311_Emmanuel demo (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
311_Emmanuel demo
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The petitioners against the segregated girls’ primary school in Emmanuel told the High Court of Justice on Thursday that the Education Ministry’s decision to establish a separate school for the “Hassidic stream” only served to increase the fragmentation of Israeli society and rewarded those who practiced discrimination.
Last week, the ministry informed the court that it had decided to approve a new school that would include rules and regulations in keeping with the practices of the Slonim Hassidim who live in the settlement.
The petition, which was filed by Yoav Lalom and the Noar Kahalacha organization, charged that the Hassidim, who until now had been enrolled in the same school with the Sephardi girls, had refused to study with them and had set up their own separate school within the same building.
The court agreed with the petitioners and ordered the hassidic families to remove all signs of a separate school and ethnic discrimination.
Instead, the hassidic families withdrew their daughters from the school and established a pirate institution.
The court found the Hassidim and the Independent Education Center, a state institution that administers the school, in contempt of court.
In the final week of the previous school year, the hassidic parents agreed to send their children back to the school to attend three study days together with the other students, where all would attend lectures by rabbis on Jewish unity.
The solution, however, was only temporary. The question remained. How would the dispute between the hassidic parents and the court be resolved? The state’s solution was to grant a permit for a new school in Emmanuel meant to serve the requirements of the Slonim community.
Before deciding whether the solution was satisfactory and that, therefore, the contempt of court order would be lifted, the High Court asked the other parties to submit their opinions on the proposal.
Attorney Aviad Hacohen, representing the petitioners, wrote that the Education Ministry was not obliged to “grant a permit to every school that does not belong to the official school system or the unofficial but recognized system in every situation.
Even if it wants to, it must first give thought to which schools to approve and on what terms.”
Hacohen reminded the court that in May 2009, when the Slonim Hassidim first asked for permission to open separate school, “the [ministry’s] director-general and his assistants... said unequivocally that it was out of the question to open such a school given the small number of children who want to study in it.”
The director-general, Shimshon Shoshani, added that “if the Slonim Hassidim open a school of their own, one subgroup after another will ask for their own school.”
In its statement to the court, the Education Ministry did not explain its reasons for permitting the opening of a new school contrary to a policy going back many years, Hacohen charged.
Hacohen also wrote that the ministry will not consider opening a new school unless at least three consecutive grades have a minimum of 22 children in the classroom. The new hassidic school does not have even one classroom like that, he said.
The decision to establish a school for the Slonim Hassidim “emptied the High Court’s ruling against ethnic discrimination of all meaning.
Permission to open a new school in Emmanuel grants the stamp of kashrut, if not an actual prize, to the trend toward ethnic separation, which is in violation of the law and a High Court warning,” Hacohen said.
In a statement issued on Thursday, the Education Ministry said that “the petitioners’ position reveals a tasteless and unexpected move to continue to prolong a conflict for which a balanced and fitting solution has already been found, a solution that was made in keeping with the High Court’s decision on the matter.”
The ministry added that it was surprised by the petition, because “during the many discussions held to find a solution, including in the courts, the petitioners announced that they would agree to the solution of establishing an “exempt” school for the hassidic girls.
The “exempt” stream of schools is comprised mainly of talmudei torah (haredi boys schools) that receive 55 percent of the normal state funding and are expected to teach 55% of the core curriculum.
The ministry added that the contention that there is no budget for the exempt institution “is contrary to the reality of the situation.”
The ministry said that the new institution was given a license after it was found to fit the necessary criteria, the same as is done for all other schools.
Ben Hartman contributed to this report.