Ultra-Orthodox Activist Ready to Withdraw Claims of Discrimination in Segregated School Row

Rabbi Yoav Lalum removes petition due to threats on his life, says spiritual mentor Ya'akov Yosef.

An ultra-Orthodox activist said Sunday that he would retract his petition to the High Court of Justice claiming Ashkenazi parents in Immanuel were embarking on ethnic discrimination by refusing to send their daughters to school with their Sephardi parents.

Rabbi Yoav Lalum, a member of the Noar Kahalacha (religious youth) nonprofit organization, had petitioned the court with the discrimination claim that led to a High Court ruling ordering children of European and Middle Eastern origin to study together.

Ultra-Orthodox men at a High Court hearing on segregated West Bank school
Emil Salman

Lalum signed an agreement to have the case arbitrated by a rabbinical court  which ostensibly turns the issue back into an internal Haredi dispute, after he was severely criticized for bringing the issued into the secular courts.

Lalum advised a private Jerusalem rabbinical court that he is committed to accept the court's arbitration ruling in his dispute over the school, which pits him against a group of Slonim Hasidim, the dominant sect among the parents opposing reintegration of the school.

He also said that he is committed to withdraw his high court petition but that the withdrawal of the petition was conditioned upon a commitment by the Hasidic group to reunify the separate educational tracks at the school, as the High Court had required, for the upcoming school year.

Sources on both sides put a damper on the view that this would provide grounds for settling the matter, however.

Lalum's spiritual guide, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, said earlier Sunday that Lalum was withdrawing his appeal due to recent threats on his life.

The High Court of Justice on Sunday postponed by two days its ruling on 24 ultra-Orthodox parents from Immanuel who failed to report for their two-week jail sentencing last Thursday on charges of violating the court order. The prosecution told the court it would not object to revoking the mothers' prison sentences.

Thirty-five men, fathers of the Ashkenazi girls in the segregated school, reported to the Maasiyahu prison in Ramle Thursday evening to serve a two-week sentence. The ruling handed down followed a petition to the High Court from a group of Mizrahi parents who wanted to put an end to the school's discrimination against their daughters.

But two fathers and 22 mothers who were also sentenced failed to appear at Jerusalem police headquarters as ordered by the court.

The Jerusalem Police stopped their search for the missing parents over the weekend.