Classroom, Archive: Tomer Appelbaum
Illustrative picture of classroom. Photo by Archive: Tomer Appelbaum
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The Education Ministry has rejected the request of the Havruta private school to receive accreditation as a recognized educational institution, a step that would have made it eligible for considerable state subsidies.

The ministry ruled that the school's operation, now in its second year, is liable to undermine public schools in the area by drawing away students from the public school system and undermining educational integration.

School chairman and co-founder Dror Aloni said the ministry's decision stems from "fear over the end to its hegemony" over the education system.

Havruta's petition against the ministry's refusal to grant it accreditation is now being heard by a judicial panel headed by retired Tel Aviv District Court judge Dan Arbel.

Havruta was established in 2009 on the grounds of the Ruppin Academic Center near Netanya. Its website identifies the school's mission as "educating a new generation of Israelis to find self-actualization in leadership and public service, inspired by our ancient heritage and values; to prepare and equip them to address the complex challenges faced by Israel and the Jewish People, and to enable Israel to flourish and hold a position of respect amongst nations."

The school teaches 80 high school students in small groups divided by grade. Tuition goes up to NIS 35,000 a year, but principal Erez Mannheimer said at least half of the students had been granted scholarships averaging 75 percent of tuition.

The law requires that every new school receive ministry authorization. According to reforms implemented by Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, one of the criteria for granting ministry recognition is the new school's influence on existing schools in its vicinity.

In August of last year, several days before the start of the school year, Havruta's umbrella organization lodged a request for accreditation. After several months, ministry director-general Shimshon Shoshani wrote to the group that receiving students from surrounding schools undermines the principle of integration. "An exodus of students is likely to harm the state education apparatus," he wrote.

Aloni said Sa'ar and Shoshani had told him that "If we forgo funding, we'd get accreditation. But we're only asking for the same treatment given to other schools categorized as 'recognized but not public.' I understand that the general public doesn't want to fund private schools, but such a decision needs to be consistent. It's unacceptable that a religious seminary should receive funding while we're held to a different standard."