According to an instruction issued by Education Minister Shai Piron, from now on, if half of parents in state-religious educational institutions request that their daughters study Talmud, they should be allowed to do so.
This is the first time that the Education Ministry sets criteria for Talmud studies for girls in state-religious school. Currently, in all state-religious educational institutions, girls study Mishna (part of the Talmud consisting of a collection of oral religious laws of Judaism) and boys study Talmud, starting in the fifth grade. Even in mixed classrooms, the Talmud and Mishna studies are separate.
"This is an anachronistic remnant of the alleged 'superiority' of men's education over women's education," explains Naama Safrai-Cohen of the Ne'emanei Torah Va'Avodah religious-Zionist movement, which worked to change the situation.
The Talmud is one of the most important books in Judaism and is considered the foundation of Judaism, and in many senses – the most important halachic book. Following the movement's appeal, via Attorney Dr. Aviad Hacohen, the Education Ministry decided to change the current situation and allow girls to study Talmud too in junior high schools.
Attorney Hacohen reached an agreement with the Ministry that in any school in which at least half of the parents want their daughters to study Talmud, they will be given the option to do so.
Education Ministry Director-General Dalit Stauber replied to Attorney Hacohen's appeal by stating that the Ministry was considering introducing "a number of Talmudic issues into the curriculum, so that junior high school girls studying Mishna will be exposed during their studies to Talmudic issues."
Education Ministry officials clarified, however, that they did not an egalitarian curriculum requiring Talmud studies for both boys and girls should be forced on the schools.
"In light of the great variation within the public of educators in the state-religious educational institutions, there is no need to force girls to study Talmud in the state-religious educational institutions," Stauber wrote.