Students at Ashkelon's only institution of higher learning are forbidden from bringing non-kosher food into the dormitory premises, Haaretz has learned.
The only institution offering a bachelor's degree in the southern coastal city is Ashkelon Academic College, which was recognized as a regional college in the 1990s and grants degrees on behalf of Bar-Ilan University in a number of fields.
The college also boasts new, spacious student dormitories, but students seeking to live there must agree to an unusual condition: every item of food they wish to bring into their rooms must be approved by an "approved rabbinic authority," even if it is prepared at home.
According to dormitory regulations, "students will not bring food items to the dormitory area - cooked or not, dry or wet - of any kind that have not been given an appropriate kashrut certificate from an authorized rabbinic authority."
The regulations function as a contract between students and the college, and Bar-Ilan University is authorized to remove students who do not adhere to the rule.
T., a student who signed up this year for dormitory accommodation, said she was surprised to hear of the prohibition.
"This is my apartment, where I live, and they're forcing me to keep kashrut," said the student, who asked to remain anonymous so as not to harm her chances of receiving accommodations next year. "This is religious coercion, and it limits me very much."
Dean of Students Prof. Yoel Yeshurun said he considers the rule legitimate.
"There is nothing inappropriate about it. A student who comes to the college dormitories knows what he or she is getting into. It is well known that the college is an extension of Bar-Ilan University, which keeps kashrut," he said.
Bar-Ilan enforces a similar rule in its dormitories.
T. recently contacted MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz), who in turn asked Education Minister Yuli Tamir to overturn the regulation.
"Beyond the financial coercion of forcing students who live in the dormitories to buy only prepared and kosher food, this is religious coercion, something that harms the secular student body and minorities," Gal-On wrote.
"Even more serious is the fact that this is being done in a regional public education institution, one recognized by the Council for Higher Education," she added.
A statement from Bar-Ilan University stated: "Under university regulations, it is prohibited to bring non-kosher food into the student dormitory area."
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