Compromise and question marks
Coexistence in a polarized, multicultural society demands compromise, and agreements reached after substantive dialogue between the interested parties, through the shared understanding that the country's laws apply to all.
After the continuous violation of High Court rulings since August 2009, a compromise was reached Sunday in the Immanuel school segregation affair. Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and the head of the Slonim Hasidim were both enlisted to help reach the deal.
The agreement holds that the Beit Yaakov religious girls school in the West Bank settlement of Immanuel will integrate its students for the last three days of classes - which will include seminars run by rabbinical and scholarly figures from both Ashkenazi and Sephardi streams - in an effort to build bridges between the two communities. The state has said that the agreement represents both the implementation of the High Court ruling and proof that law-enforcement measures have reached their goal.
The High Court had ruled just two days earlier that adhering to its edicts are part of our "fundamental values," and that mediation efforts do not fall within its own responsibilities. The court also ruled that the only way the Immanuel fathers refusing to integrate their daughters' studies could get out of jail would be to obey the order requiring that the "Hasidic" and "general" study tracks be integrated, and obligating parents to send their daughters to a single, unified course of study.
On Sunday the court welcomed the mediation measures, which it said were aimed at "creating peace, brotherhood and affection between the quarreling camps."
One is tempted to join in the optimism, but it is difficult to believe the situation will proceed forward in this way. The court's statement specifically refers to three seminar days, which will include guest speakers rather than the customary studies. It should be no surprise that ultra-Orthodox observers consider the agreement a victory for rabbis over the judges, and of religious law over the rule of law itself.
The arrangement does not refer to next year's studies, nor does it guarantee that these studies will be integrated - an issue at the heart of the High Court decision. For its part, the court decided to enforce its contempt of court verdict by sending the offending parents to jail, a step generally not taken against ministers or other public figures who fail to heed judicial rulings. This double standard has not contributed to bolstering the rule of law for everyone.
It is hard to identify clear winners and losers in the Immanuel case. Coexistence in a polarized, multicultural society demands compromise, and agreements reached after substantive dialogue between the interested parties, through the shared understanding that the country's laws apply to all.