High Court: Ultra-Orthodox to Remain Exempt From Israel's Core Curriculum Subjects

Court upholds 2008 education law exempting Haredi schools from teaching core curriculum subjects like math and science.

Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel
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Ultra-Orthodox students at a Haredi girls school in Jerusalem in 2012.
Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel

Ultra-Orthodox schools will continue to be exempt from meeting national standards on basic subjects like math, Hebrew and science, the High Court of Justice ruled Wednesday.

Upholding an education law passed in 2008 that exempted Haredi schools from teaching the core curriculum mandated in other schools, the court said in a 7-2 ruling that changing the education requirements would be a paternalistic blow to the rights of others.

"This is an unusual petition, in which a third party is asking to require the state to act paternalistically toward another," Supreme Court President Asher Grunis wrote in the majority ruling. The petition was filed in 2010 by educators and Israelis who used to be ultra-Orthodox but no longer are.

"Even though it could be that a demand from the state to act paternalistically toward a third party could be accepted in extreme instances, it is clear that this matter is not one of them," wrote Grunis. "Another unique characteristic of this petition is that, truth be told, this petition is seeking to advance a broad public interest at the price of infringing on the (possibly constitutional) rights of others."

The judges had debated whether education was a constitutional right and whether not being taught core subjects constitutes a disproportionate infringement of such a right, but they ruled that the petitioners had not proved that the standards for ultra-Orthodox schools infringed on the right to education.

The petitioners included public figures such as Amnon Rubinstein and Uriel Reichman, both of whom are legal scholars and former politicians, and Maj. Gen. (ret.) Elazar Stern, a Hatnuah MK and former head of the army's personnel directorate.