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Putting on tefillin (archives)
Photo: Shaul Golan
Tefillin? Not in this school
Pupils claim Modiin high school principal forbade them to put on phylacteries on school grounds due to 'religious coercion.' Student's mother: They are being treated as if they use drugs or alcohol
A high school in the central city of Modiin forbade a student to bringing his phylacteries (small leather case containing Scriptural texts which is worn during morning prayers) onto school grounds, threatening to expel him.

 

"It started on the first day of school," says A, an 11th grader. "Two classmates of mine told me they wanted to put on teffilin every morning, and asked me to take them to a rabbi to have them checked. I did that, and the rabbi found the tefillin to be damaged and in need of repair."

 

For the time being, A. started bringing his phylacteries to school, and in their free time, during breaks and free periods, the three would gather at a small classroom which was not being used, and put on the phylacteries for a few minutes every day.

 

Other students heard about this and asked to join them, and they would all meet every morning. This went on uninterrupted until one day the students wanted to put on the phylacteries when a class was cancelled and their regular classroom was occupied.

 

Instead, the group entered the school library, where the librarian pointed them in the direction of the unoccupied photocopy room.

 

When the students returned to the same room the following day, the librarian told A. that the school principal, Nurit Zak, wanted to see him in her office.

 

When A. and his friend arrived at the principal's office, Zak reportedly told them, "What you are doing is religious coercion and missionary incitement. There are students in this school whose parents won’t have them exposed to religious characteristics."

 

A.'s mother was amazed by the decision. "I am shocked and astonished," she said. "We came from France, where such things happen on occasion, but we never imagined that they could happen here, in Israel. It hurts me that he was punished so severely, as if he had brought drugs or alcohol to school."

 

The high school principal refused to respond and directed us to the Modiin Municipality's spokesperson, who said that "nothing is stopping those who wish to put on teffilin at the school privately and personally. The student was asked not to bring his tefillin to school and to pursause others to join him."

 

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