Members of the Slonim Hasidic sect, including Grand Rabbi Shmuel Berezovsky, earlier this month.
Hasidic Jews. Photo by Emil Salman
Text size

"Even if they put us before a firing squad, we will not give in and we will not compromise," the rabbinic leader of the Slonim Hasidic sect wrote in a letter to his followers yesterday.

The letter referred to the ongoing controversy over segregation at a Haredi school in the West Bank settlement of Immanuel. Most of the Ashkenazi parents who oppose having their daughters study in the same classes as Sephardi girls - whom they deem less religious - are Slonim Hasidim, and thus, so are most of the fathers who are now serving two-week jail terms for disobeying a High Court of Justice order to integrate the school.

In his letter - parts of which was read to the Knesset plenum yesterday by Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, who chairs the Ashkenazi Haredi party United Torah Judaism - Rabbi Shmuel Berezovsky said the High Court justices were heretics who represent "the satanic force of impurity."

"If I thought the justices believed what they say - that the school in Immanuel was founded on racial discrimination - I think I would have acted differently," he wrote. "But since I have not the slightest doubt that they know the truth, which is that everything they say is a lie, this is nothing but a battle between faith and heresy, between the force of holiness and the satanic force of impurity - a battle that we always knew would erupt at the end of days."

Berezovsky urged the broader public to "join us in this noble battle, the battle that generations have waited and hoped for."

The UTJ faction, some of whose members have threatened a coalition crisis if the court's ruling is not reversed, met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday to discuss the issue. Netanyahu told the MKs he has neither the power nor the desire to intervene in the court's decision.

But he did criticize the inflammatory rhetoric that has been heard against the Haredim over the past several days.

Meanwhile, the Sephardi Shas party is trying to extricate itself from its problem of whether to back the court or support the anti-Sephardi discrimination.

To this end, the Shas daily Yom Leyom will run an interview with party chairman Eli Yishai today in which he says that "discrimination does exist" and "must be eradicated." However, he adds, it exists "in every sector" of Israeli society, "not just among the Haredi public," and the right way to resolve the Immanuel problem is by "building Sephardi schools, not through the courts."