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Religious edicts (archives) Photo: AFP
Religious edicts (archives) Photo: AFP
 
 

Kippahs by coercion

Op-ed: University's decision to back lecturer who kicked student out of class a sign of the times

Kobi Pinchas
Published: 12.16.12, 11:43 / Israel Opinion

A student at the Bar-Ilan University was removed from a class taught by Rabbi Dr. Haim Talbi because he was not wearing a yarmulke. The shocked student initially posted a complaint on the university's Facebook page. Management responded by saying that nothing had changed, and that university regulations require students to wear kippahs in mandatory Jewish studies courses - even if many professors do not enforce this rule.

 

Since an agreement signed by all students upon admission includes a clause mandating a “head covering during mandatory Jewish studies courses,” the lecturer acted "flawlessly," the university said in the Facebook exchange.

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As an atheist who studied "Hebrew Law" and found the course to be a first-rate academic experience, I believe academic institutions should obligate their students to broaden their horizons and expand their knowledge in fields they are not majoring in. This is the essence of the academia and encourages people to think outside the box.

 

Bar-Ilan decided it was not enough to expand people's knowledge and is demanding that students abide by religious edicts. There is a vast difference between expanding students' knowledge of Judaism and forcing them to wear kippahs.

 

A university is a public institution that is funded by the State. The skills it teaches are not merely academic – they serve as an entry pass to the job market. As a public institution, a university must limit the number of guidelines it issues – just as the State is retrained in its control over the individual. The Supreme Court has ruled that the individual has a right to "freedom from religion," an extension of the "freedom of religion" mentioned in the Israeli Declaration of Independence.

 

Moreover, numerous Supreme Court rulings refer to "freedom from religion" as a cornerstone of the "Jewish and democratic" State of Israel.

 

In this case the university clearly violated the student's right to freedom from religion and actively forced him to wear a religious symbol and act against his conscience in a manner that, to him, seemed absurd. Bar-Ilan University can instill its values without forcing its students to don yarmulkes.

 

In the current state of affairs, people who are accepted to Bar-Ilan are torn between the desire to study and the recognition that they will be humiliated and forced to participate in the religious ceremony of wearing a kippah.

 

The Bar-Ilan case is indicative of the ongoing violation of the right of atheists, non-Jews and seculars to freedom from religion. The lecturer's use of the "kippah clause" and the fact that the university backed him are merely signs of the times, in which oppressors, silencers and nationalists are supported and encouraged.

 

Attorney Kobi Pinchas, 28, studied law and philosophy at Tel Aviv University

 

 

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