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Religious school (archive) Photo: Dudi Vaaknin
Religious school (archive) Photo: Dudi Vaaknin
 
 

Court: No more wall separating Ashkenazim, Sephardim

Petition filed with High Court about more than a year ago after haredi school was suspected of ethnic discrimination. Judges rule courtyard wall separating Ashkenazi, Sephardic students must be taken down

Kobi Nahshoni
Published: 01.15.09, 15:26 / Israel Jewish Scene

After a year of deliberations, High Court Justices Edmond Levi, Hanan Meltzer and Edna Arbel ordered the Beit Yaakov religious school and the Independent Education Center to nullify within a week all discriminatory practices and protocols that separate between Ashkenazi and Sephardic students, including the removal of a wall in the school's courtyard, unifying the two teachers' rooms meant for two different "learning tracks" and cancellation of the unlawful levies on parents of students in the "Ashkenazi-Hasidic track."

 

In the decision handed down by the court, it was also decided that the Emanuel Regional Council is to present an arrangement acceptable to all parties for the separation of the school's various learning tracks, otherwise the High Court will not authorize the existence of separate learning tracks in the school.

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The petition against the Independent Learning Center, Emanuel Regional Council, and the Ministry of Education was submitted more than a year ago by Noar C'Halacha Youth Organizatoin and Yoav Laloum, represented by Adv. Dr. Aviad HaCohen, following reported discrimination in the Emmanuel institution, which included the construction of separate classrooms and separate entrances for Ashkenazim and Sephardim, imposing Ashkenazi-style prayer, separation fences in the school's courtyard, and different recess times for Ashkenazi and Sephardic students.

 

Ministry of Education against 'spiritual code'

In the Ministry of Education's response to the High Court decision, which was handed down Tuesday, the separation between Ashkenazim and Sephardim at the school was "religious and not ethnic."

 

However, the ministry's Director-General Shlomit Amichai also demanded that the school remove all signs of physical separation between the two learning tracks and to allow students to decide in which track she wishes to study.

 

Amichai also charged that "changes will be put in place in the spiritual code presented by the institution, including the cancellation of the directive that parents teach their daughters to pray at home using the Ashkenazi style, to commit itself not to allow clashes between the binding spiritual authority of the home and that binding at school, and to dress in accordance with the standard dress stipulated by the Rabbinical Council as mentioned in the code."

 

In response, the Ministry of Education made it clear on Monday that "the central condition of the existence of the track system is that every student be free to choose which track she is interested in studying while assuming upon herself its stylistic manners… as far as a student encounters difficulty fitting into the study track she is interested in studying, she must first turn to the appeals committee of the Education Ministry that will examine the concrete discrimination."

 

Amichai committed to continued overseeing of the educational institution in order to ensure that there will no longer be any discrimination on the basis of ethnicity.

 

"We praise the High Court decision and hope that it will bring an end to the disgraceful ethnic apartheid that exists in the Independent Education System," said Adv. Dr. Aviad HaCohen Monday.

 

"We must hope that from now on, the Ministry of Education will be sure to fill its role in overseeing the institutions of education in order to prevent discrimination on the basis of ethnic background"

 

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