The affair of the Haredi education system's discrimination against Mizrahi girls in Immanuel has, over the past few days, become a locus of aggression that puts the government, the education system and law enforcement to the test.
The discrimination in Immanuel contains in a nutshell the essence of the clash between the rule of law and separatist interest groups. Such groups include Hasidic sects and extreme, insular ultra-Orthodox communities that demand state funds to strengthen the independent education system that serves their children, but are unwilling to give in on even a single convention that governs their lifestyle.
Step by step, every government has allowed Haredim to foster an independent education system that keeps inspectors away and refuses to accept any dictates about the curriculum. With each passing year, the graduates of these institutions, boys and girls alike, adhere less and less to the norms of a modern, tolerant and liberal society that is committed to its citizens and their rights. The government has withdrawn from this trend in fear, surrendering to explanations about "cultural differences" and "differences in academic levels" that the Haredim use to excuse callous discrimination. Now, promising they will go to jail singing rather than implement a High Court of Justice ruling requiring Ashkenazi students to study in the same classes as their Mizrahi peers, they have managed to further weaken the already debilitated government.
Israel's Haredim did not invent the friction that pits the state against religious and other groups that wish to separate themselves from society but lack the means to do so themselves. In the United States, France and other places, the state insists on differentiating between public and private education, though even private schools aren't allowed to violate the laws of the country.
Discrimination in Immanuel is a clear example of such a violation, as the High Court has ruled. It is now up to the government to implement the court's verdict. Any compromise the government makes with discriminatory institutions will only erode its autonomy further still.
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