Minister of Religious Services Yakov Margi (Shas) on Wednesday urged the religious-Sephardic public not to take part in a mass rally scheduled to take place in Jerusalem Thursday, during which ultra-Orthodox plan to escort to prison parents from the West Bank settlement of Emmanuel who are refusing to obey a High Court ruling and send their daughters to school with Sephardic students.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on all sides in the racial discrimination case to show restraint and resolve their differences peacefully.
"At this crucial time, when Israel stands before existential threats from our enemies, I call on all sides involved to show restraint, honor the law, and resolve differences quietly and peacefully," he said.
On Tuesday Justices Edmond Levy, Edna Arbel and Hanan Meltzer ruled that Emmanuel parents who do not inform the High Court of Justice in writing by Wednesday that they will obey the court’s order to return their daughters to the all girls Beit Ya’acov school in the settlement will be imprisoned for two weeks, beginning Thursday.
A few months ago the court demanded the school "remove every formal and material sign of the rampant discrimination." The ruling came in response to a petition filed by Yoav Lalum of the Noar Kahalacha association, and Dr. Aviad Hacohen, dean of the Sha'arei Mishpat law school.
Lalum and Hacohen complained the school and education network were in contempt of court, and were not following the ruling.
In an interview with Ynet, Margi, who called the affair a "tragedy," said "I call (on the religious-Sephardic public) not to take part in the rally tomorrow and continue to live in harmony with the Ashkenazim."
"The court should have realized that this was a problematic issue, and the hasidics should have been aware of the court's nuances," he said. "There are twenty-thousand ways to preserve ideology while complying with the court."
Margi blamed Lalum for the tensions surrounding the saga, and called on the Sephardic public to "condemn" him. "He is not a resident of Emmanuel - the Sephardic public did not elect him," he said.
"The Sephardic public has acted responsibly throughout the affair," the minister added.
Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef said he agrees in principle with the petitioners' position, but not with their strategy.
During a meeting with Shas Chairman Eli Yishai, Rabbi Yosef said he was unequivocally opposed to racial segregation in school but that the matter should have been resolved amicably, without turning to the courts.
The rabbi said the court's ruling was "extremely upsetting."
Meanwhile, Ynet has learned that security around Justice Levy has been boosted following the ruling in the Emmanuel school affair.
Police are preparing for the possibility that haredi rallies will spread to other parts of the country.
Former Shas leader Aryeh Deri met Wednesday with Rabbi Shmuel Berezovsky the admor of Slonim, in a last-ditch effort to work out a compromise between the Ashkenazi and Sephardic parents.
Rabbi Berezovsky is the spiritual leader of most of the parents whose daughters are in the Hasidic program.
Roni Sofer contributed to the report