Ashkenazi Parent: Sephardi Girls Have a Bad Influence on Our Girls

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Or Kashti

The Education Ministry on Wednesday threatened to prosecute parents of students in a West Bank settlement school under the mandatory education law, unless the students returned to their classrooms.

The Ashkenazi students of the ultra-Orthodox Beit Yaakov girls' school in Immanuel stayed home on Wednesday, yet again, as part of an organized protest against the decision by the Education Ministry and High Court to end the segregation between Sephardi and Ashkenazi students.

"No court ruling or Education Ministry decision can bring the two groups together," an Immanuel resident said Wednesday.

"It's like putting Americans and Africans together. They can't study together with such huge mental differences," he said.

Some 70 Ashkenazi students of the Beit Yaakov girls' school stopped attending classes two days before the Hanukkah holiday - in protest of the ministry's efforts to force the ultra-Orthodox school to rescind the segregation, in keeping with the High Court ruling.

The Ashkenazi girls have since been studying in improvised classrooms in private homes in the settlement.

In August, the court ruled that Beit Yaakov and the Independent Education Center have "infringed on the Sephardi students' right to equality" by segregating them from their Ashkenazi peers. It also scolded the Education Ministry for not using "all the means available to prevent discrimination."

The court demanded that the school "remove every sign and effect of the rampant discrimination."

The court ruling came in response to a petition filed by Yoav Lalum of the Noar Kahalacha association, and Dr. Aviad Hacohen, dean of the Sha'arei Mishpat law school.

"The existence of two separate programs based on different customs is unacceptable ... The two programs must be merged, and the discrimination must stop immediately," Education Ministry director general Shimshon Shoshani wrote in the ministry's comment, submitted to the Supreme Court on Monday.

Two weeks ago, Lalum and Hacohen complained that the school and education network were in contempt of court, and were not following the ruling.

A group of Ashkenazi schoolgirls who approached the institute's side gate on Wednesday were driven away by a number of ultra-Orthodox men, who noticed Haaretz's photographer.

"The court and media don't understand that this is another world," a mother who is keeping her daughter out of school said. "The Hasidic program was created because of a different religious outlook. Only pure children attend it."

"The Mizrahi students' families don't belong with the other families," another parent said. "They have a television at home while the [Ashkenazim] speak Yiddish. The Mizrahi girls have a bad influence on our girls. No court will change anything," he added.

"It's better for everyone to have separate study programs. This way each student keeps his identity - just like you wouldn't play Mizrahi and classical music on the same radio show," another resident said.

The school has 215 students from first to eighth grade, 35 percent of whom are Sephardi.

"It's a disgrace to this place, the ministry must intervene to stop the segregation once and for all," the father of one Mizrahi student said. "The Ashkenazis think they're more intelligent than we are, but what really bugs them is our skin color."