Ministry of Education Director-General Shimshon Shoshani issued a closure order Sunday against a temporary institution used as a school for Ashkenazi girls who have refused to study together with Sephardi girls.
The Beit Yaacov school in the West Bank settlement of Emmanuel had separated Sephardi girls from 74 Ashkenazi girls, and the High Court ruled that the Sephardi girls should be incorporated in an equal fashion and without discrimination. However, parents of the Ashkenazi girls opposed the court's decision.
The parents announced they would refuse to allow their daughters to continue to study at the school. The Education Ministry then instructed the local authority to submit claims against the parents with the police, indicating that they had broken the mandatory education law.
However, the local authority chose to defend the parents and left the Ministry to submit the claim itself. It was also discovered that the 74 Ashkenazi girls were studying in a temporary "school". The police are responsible for enforcing the closure order.
The decision to act against the temporary "school" was welcomed by Yoav Laloum, chairman of Noar C'Halacha, an organization fighting discrimination against Mizrahim in haredi institutions. "I am happy that the Education Ministry is acting against those who do not respect the law," he said.
Last week the state comptroller announced that a special committee would be established to investigate the issue of discrimination in state-recognized independent educational institutions, with particular emphasis on Ashkenazi institutions which refuse to take on Sephardi students. The move comes following a recent increase in the number of discrimination claims.
"It's hard to grasp that independent education is a separate autonomous body," said Rabbi Avraham Laiserson, chairman of the independent school system and representative of the institutions being accused of discrimination. "There is no basis for the things being claimed. I want to deny this false stigma that has stuck to independent education."
"I won't say there are no problems, but this system was established decades ago for the sole purpose of taking in olim from North Africa, Tunis and Iraq, and offering them an education," he continued. "I blame the press for the headlines. We even organized plastic rooms just for Sephardi girls in one school. I want you to see with your own eyes, and you'll understand that your facts are mistaken. See how happy the Mizrahi students are with us."
"There are problems here and there, but parent committees sort out such problems," he added. "There is discrimination in many places, but we're the last ones you can blame. Out of all the cases and claims, there isn't a single example of a court ruling that there is discrimination. After you've investigated, come and apologize, then celebrate."
Kobi Nahshoni contributed to this report.