High Court to West Bank Parents: Desegregate School or Face Jail Time

Court tells Ashkenazi parents in Immanuel settlement to return their daughters to school with Sephardi students, or face two-week jail sentence.

In a dramatic ruling on Tuesday, the High Court of Justice demanded that Ashkenazi parents who have refused to let their daughters attend a school in Immanuel with Sephardim must return their daughters to school by Wednesday or face a two-week jail term.

Haredim protesting at High Court of Justice
Emil Salman

The parents, meanwhile, said that they will not abide by the court ruling and will march to jail in a demonstration of their devotion to this cause.

The parents face on Thursday and would remain incarcerated for two weeks or until the court received notice that the girls had returned to school.

Dozens of Haredi protesters gathered at  the courthouse and called out "God is our lord.'' The protesters issued a statement that the parents refuse to comply with the court's ruling and that they will not betray their religious position.

The court's decision continues the ongoing saga in Immanuel, a settlement in the West Bank,  where parents are attempting to segregate Ashkenazi and Sephardi girls.

"No court verdict requires the approval of any rabbi," said Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy on Tuesday during a court hearing on the segregation at the ultra-Orthodox Beit Yaakov girls' school in Immanuel.

The hearing revolved around the continued violation of a High Court of Justice ruling forbidding the segregation of Sephardi and Ashkenazi students. A compromise was supposedly achieved between the religious school board and the parents, but the Ashkenazi girls' parents rejected the compromise and refuse to allow their daughters to return to school.

The parents' attorney argued at the hearing that "the parents have the freedom to choose not to send their children to school," and that this is a basic right. He added that the court's ruling prohibits segregation, but does not require the parents to send their children to school. "Where is the freedom of education, of conscience, of choice?" he asked.

Justice Levy said during the hearing that until the situation is resolved, the parents must return their daughters to school, saying "I was horrified. It was like there were never any proceedings."

"The State of Israel has institutions, including its justice system. Without the justice system your state and ours would be unbearable," he told the parents, adding that "I don't know any law that requires anyone's approval for a court ruling."

According to the parents' attorney, whenever there is a faith-oriented religious dispute, the rabbis' decisions overrule the courts "which is more powerful than the decision of any other authority."