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Ashkenazi, Sephardic girls separated (illustration)
Photo: Dudi Vaaknin
Religious school accused of contempt of court
High Court rules that Beit Yaakov ignored verdict against separation between Ashkenazi, Sephardic girls, orders Independent Education Center to pay NIS 5,000 for each day it avoids implementing ruling
The High Court of Justice on Wednesday issued a contempt of court ruling against the Independent Education Center, which is responsible for operating ultra-Orthodox schools, due to its failure to force Ashkenazi students in the Beit Yaakov school for girls in Emmanuel to attend classes.

 

By failing to do so, the court said, the Center "helped violate an order to remove any sign of discrimination which prevailed in the school."

 

The court ordered the Independent Education Center to pay NIS 5,000 (about $1,353) for each day it avoids implementing the verdict.

 

Judges Edmond Levy, Edna Arbel and Hanan Melcer also ruled that the parent of each Ashkenazi student who has stopped showing up for classes after the verdict would be subpoenaed to a court hearing at the end of April, where they would be required to explain their actions and might be accused of contempt of court – a move which may lead to arrests or fines. The parents will also be required to explain where their daughters have been studying since their strike began.

 

Some of the school's teachers are also required to attend the hearing. Each will have to "declare the exact number of hours she is present at the school, and clarify whether she meets with or gives any lessons to students who have stopped coming to the school after the verdict was delivered, and if so – under which framework, where and when."

 

The judges clarified that the fine and the subpoenas were not the last steps which might be taken against those violating the verdict. "These matters will be discussed later on, unless the violations cease," the court said.

 

Strike against High Court

After the court decided to cancel all signs of discrimination in the school, the Ashkenazi students' parents decided to boycott the studies. Education Ministry inspectors who arrived at the school discovered that the physical separation was canceled, but that the Sephardic girls were the only ones to attend classes. The High Court petition was filed several months ago by representatives of the Sephardic students.

 

The first decision against the school was made about eight months ago, when the High Court instructed the Education Ministry to "take all legal measures to amend the situation, including revoking the school's license and pulling its budget."

 

The petitioners' representative, Dr. Aviad Cohen, said in response to the ruling: "This is a very sad moment for the education system in general, and for the education system in charge of the Torah mitzvot in particular, a moment in which a court is forced to issue an order against this ugly and despised ethnic discrimination."

 

According to Hacohen, "The practical implementation of the High Court decision is a very important test for the rule of law in the State of Israel. We hope that the students' parents and educators and all of those involved in this unfit discrimination come to their senses, and that the Ashkenazi students return to classes with their friends, as they have done in the past, and as required both by human, Jewish and democratic values, and by the force of law and the obligation to honor court rulings."

 

Yoav Lalum, chairman of the Noar Kahalacha association which battles ethnic discrimination in haredi education institutions, told Ynet on Wednesday afternoon: "It's a shame that people calling themselves haredim must be educated by the High Court. It's time that the haredi leadership and the Sephardic public's leadership speak up on this painful matter which hurts the souls of girls whose only sin is their parents' denomination."

 

Kobi Nahshoni contributed to this report

 

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