Top court opposed to imposing curriculum on haredim

Justice Rubinstein: Do we have right to say the right to education means we'll force someone to learn Latin even though he doesn’t want to?

high court panel citizenship law 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
high court panel citizenship law 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
At a High Court of Justice hearing on Tuesday regarding a petition calling for haredi educational institutions to be compelled to teach core subjects, the justices questioned the authority of the court to impose a specific curriculum on a sector of the population not wishing to adopt it.
The session, which was attended by nine judges and headed by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinish, comprised the “constitutional panel” required for a fundamental change in a law such as that under discussion at the hearing.
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The petition, brought last May by former Knesset member and former education minister Professor Amnon Rubinstein along with Maj.-Gen (res.) Elazar Stern and several other petitioners, requests that the High Court issue an injunction against a law passed in 2008 exempting haredi high schools, commonly known as “yeshivot ketanot,” from teaching core subjects while continuing to allow them to receive state funding.
The petition argues that the law is unconstitutional since it infringes on the legal rights of students at haredi high schools to receive a broad education, infringes the basic law of human dignity and prevents students from gaining an equal opportunity to integrate into Israeli society.
Lawyers for the respondents – consisting of the Knesset, the Education Ministry and the Union for Yeshivas and Religious Institutes – argued on Tuesday that the Knesset legitimately passed the law exempting haredi high schools from teaching the core curriculum and that the correct measure for addressing such an issue was not the courts but the Knesset and the public forum.
“The right of human dignity protects the individual even if they are outliers from the mainstream,” argued Dinah Zilber, lawyer for the respondents. “[The law of] human dignity requires the recognition of those who are different and not the imposition of the values of the majority upon them.”
In response, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch expressed concern for the level of secular education in the haredi sector but was sceptical of the court’s ability to intervene.
“The question is what constitutional leverage exists to cancel the [exemption] law,” she asked.
Justice Esther Hayot questioned why the petitioners wished to involve themselves in the choice of the haredi community. “God forbid that I agree with the haredi stance, but this is their wish, so why interfere with them? There is a problem in determining for a community what their own opinion is.”
Justice Elyakim Rubinstein also joined in criticizing the petition’s demands.
“Do we have the right to say that the right to education means we will force someone to learn Latin even though he doesn’t want to?” he questioned.
“What framework exists that says that those who do not want to study core curriculum subjects do not have the right to request state funding?” The petition will be ruled on in the coming months.