The High Court of Justice Thursday instructed Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, the Education Ministry and mayors of Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Modi'in Ilit and Betar Ilit to reply in a week to a petition demanding an end to quotas restricting Sephardi girls' admission to state-funded ultra-Orthodox girls high schools.

The petitioners, Noar Kahalacha organization and social activist Yoav Laloum, sought to stop the "apartheid-like" ethnic segregation at ultra-Orthodox girls high schools. They also asked the court to issue an interim injunction forbidding the schools to start registration for the next school year until the court hears the petition.

The petitioners, who headed the fight against ethnic segregation at the Beit Yaakov school in the West Bank settlement Immanuel in 2008, are also demanding to revoke the licenses and state funding of all the schools that discriminate against Sephardi girls.

Justice Edna Arbel said in her ruling yesterday the court will hear the petition soon.

MK Chaim Amsellem (Shas ) commended the petition. "The Education Ministry is collaborating with the schools' principals and Haredi parties to silence the problem and perpetuate the discrimination. Shas, which was formed to uproot this problem, does nothing...its leaders are afraid their children will be taken out of the Ashkenazi schools," he said.

Shas chairman MK Eli Yishai said "Shas acted and is acting to establish more high schools and other schools. Only this week the Knesset held a debate we initiated on a proposal to prevent discrimination in schools."

"The main problem is not the state funding but the moral turpitude this discriminative policy brands our society with," said prominent educator and public figure Rabbi Shai Piron, Director-General of Hakol Hinuch, the Movement for the Advancement of Education in Israel.