The Slonim Hasidic dynasty, which was planning what was termed "the mother of all protests" Thursday, was forced to reconsider its plans when the High Court of Justice ordered all Emmanuel parents who are to be detained to appear at a Jerusalem police station by 13 pm.
The ultra-Orthodox protestors said they would take to the streets to demonstrate against the High Court's decision to detain parents who refuse to withdraw what the court deemed a discriminatory policy from an Emmanuel school which their girls attend.
By Wednesday night it appeared 86 parents would go to jail for two weeks, but chief Slonim Rabbi Shmuel Brazovsky ordered only men to report to the police station for arrest after lengthy deliberations with the court.
"The chief rabbi decided that only men will go to prison because of respect for women," a senior member of the Hasidic community said.
However the final High Court order presents a different view. "Assuming that these violators have families taking care of small children, we will be prepared to examine any request filed by a parent to delay his or her own arrest until the partner is released from prison," the court announced.
Thus, the court effectively ordered both parents to appear at the police station unless an explicit appeal is filed with the court, in which case it will be examined and then decided upon.
Police have also denied claims that a deal had been reached by which only the men will be imprisoned while the women remain at home. "We will not accept such a deal," said a police official.
"If we see that the women violate the original agreement, we will decide on additional moves at that time."
'Like what happened in Germany'
On Wednesday the Slonim rabbi met with all of the parents set to be detained and gave them each an envelope with $500, in honor of their "sacrifice for the benefit of the education of their children". The cash was obtained from an anonymous donor.
The rabbi told the parents, "We have been slandered that we, the religious, are racist people distinguishing between Jews according to their color, while this has nothing to do with reality. The opposite is the truth, and even the numbers prove it."
Brazovsly told his followers that that nothing would prevent the haredim from upholding the Torah's opinion on the matter. "We are willing to go to jail over this matter," he said. "They can jail us, they can do whatever they want, whatever their mind can come up with.
"Taking women, mothers to small children, making them leave their entire family and arresting them, I think this has never happened in any normal country," the rabbi noted. "No such thing has happened since the end of the war in Germany."
Peres: Refrain from violence
Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush and Rabbi Yitzhak David Grossman met with President Shimon Peres on Thursday morning in a last attempt to prevent the mass haredi protests planned to take place across the country.
The president's residence said after the meeting that "Rabbi Porush broke into tears during the meeting and told the president that he felt the families' pain and expressed the strong desire to prevent the parent's imprisonment."
Rabbi Porush stressed that he represents a public which does not wish to disrespect and degrade the court. He suggested moving up the summer vacation, which is slated to begin at the end of June, and that next year the school would be given a permit to act as an institution for children of the Slonim Hasidic dynasty.
Rabbi Grossman said at the start of the meeting, "At such unfortunate times, when everything is boiling, he should bring the solution and peace. We have a number of ideas which are acceptable to all sides, and if this happens everyone will gain."
Peres with religious leaders (Photo: Moshe Milner, GPO)
According to Grossman, "The current situation is terrible. The polarization, the hatred and the split have reached a situation which will destroy us from the inside. We have enough enemies on the outside and our sages teach us that our strength is the internal unity. Peres is the symbol of peace as the president of the State of Israel and is accepted by the entire public."
The president said that as part of the compromise, "we are not looking to breach principles but to maintain peace."
He clarified that "we cannot have more than one law. There is only one law in the State. I greatly appreciate the rabbis' wisdom and I will respectfully listen to their opinion.
"Even if there are different opinions," he added, "we all want to respect the other, to respect everyone."
Ahead of the planned mass protest, Peres called on the demonstrators to practice restraint and refrain from violence. "I would like to turn to the entire public – the religious, haredi, secular and traditional – and ask them to respect one another. Practice restraint. Those who protest – protest, but God forbid refrain from clashes and physical injuries."
Aviad Glickman, Shmulik Grossman and Ronen Medzini contributed to this report