Rabbis Agree to Halt Immanuel Segregation for Last 3 School Days

Yair Ettinger
Yair Ettinger
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Yair Ettinger
Yair Ettinger

The Immanuel school segregation affair has come to an end. The High Court of Justice yesterday adopted a document agreed on by ultra-Orthodox rabbis, with the approval of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, stating that the girls studying at the Bais Ya'akov school in Immanuel, segregated for more than three years, will be integrated for the final three days of school.

The final days will be dedicated to a "seminar" that will focus on "unity, peace and love of Israel."

The agreement does not say anything about the next school year or coming years, and the parents of the Hasidic community in the settlement insist they will not allow their daughters to study at an integrated school and would likely establish a new school in the community.

Some of the freed Immanuel prisoners on Sunday June 27, 2010.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

A spokesman for the released parents, Yitzhak Weinberg, announced immediately outside the court that "today it became clear to everyone that those who decide in the State of Israel are the [rabbis] and no one else. They and only they will decide for the public, and the Haredi community especially, what the Torah is, what are ethics and what is justice. They and no one else."

The court recognized the agreement as indicative of the group's heeding its ruling of last August in which parents were ordered to integrate the school serving the predominantly Ashkenazi Hasidic community and predominantly Sephardic girls of the "general population" in the ultra-Orthodox settlement.

As a result of the court's accepting the agreement, the court ordered the 33 fathers in custody released and decided not to enforce the arrest warrants against 10 other parents - eight of them women - who had refused to heed to court ruling on integrating the school.

At the completion of court deliberations, which were attended by Shas leader and Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who had been instrumental in putting together the agreement, there was great joy in Haredi communities in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, with the released prisoners being the focus of attention.

Throughout the day the released parents visited senior Haredi rabbis, especially the signatories of the agreement, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and the Admor of Slonim, spiritual leader of the most of the parents, Rabbi Shmuel Berezovsky.

Rabbi Yosef, who was received by the parents with song and chant at the synagogue below his home in Jerusalem greeted them, "Only unity saves us. All of us - Sephardim and Ashkenazim - all of us are sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God forbid that one will harm the other. We all love, we are all loved."

Despite the chants of victory, the agreement was reached in largely because of the willingness of Berezovsky to compromise. He had said last week that he would not compromise and that he was willing to "face a shooting squad" but he reached an agreement with Ovadia Yosef for a seminar instead of the regular school days that the High Court called for. Many meetings were held in the Haredi community in an effort to find compromise and prevent the possibility that the High Court would send more parents to prison for contempt of court.

Efforts at compromise were also made by the Justice Minister Ya'akov Ne'eman, on Saturday night, without success.

The compromise agreement was finally reached with the mediation of Yishai and Yossi Deitch, a representative of Berezovsky and a representative of United Torah Judaism in the Jerusalem municipality.

The petitioner in the case against the segregation, Yoav Lelom and the Education Ministry were not involved in the negotiations, but told the court yesterday that they accepted the compromise.

"We, the heads of Haredi Judaism, gathered to bring reconciliation and unity in Immanuel," the agreement states.

Attorney Mordechai Green, representing the parents, told the court that the compromise was a "dramatic development."

The agreement makes no reference to the court ruling or its decisions and Green evaded the question of Justice Hanan Melcer on whether the agreement constituted carrying out the court's decisions. Green said later that he had been ordered by his clients not to agree to a document that would state that the court's ruling had been accepted.