Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is Immanuel

Everyone is talking about peace and unity and bringing people together. These are nice words that appear in the draft of the settlement of the Immamuel school desegregation case that was reached yesterday at the High Court of Justice. Everybody is talking about peace, but in the same breath they are speaking about defeat of their opponents, and maybe even about political dividends.

Most of those involved in the Immanuel case talk of victory, but they should also feel united in the bitterness of the victory - not to mention the hate that is still burning in the wake of the court's decision to jail parents who violated a court order to integrate the ethnically segregated Beit Yaakov girls school in Immanuel.

But for all that recrimination, hundreds of people - mostly Ashkenazim, dressed in telltale Hasidic garb - squeezed into the Jerusalem synagogue led by former Sephardi chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef to greet the 33 fathers of Ashkenazi girls who were released from jail yesterday. Most of those packed into the synagogue, in the capital's Har Nof neighborhood, had never been there before and would probably never have come had it not been for the Immanuel case. As Yosef spoke, they sat with rapt attention, even though they were Ashkenazi Hasidim and he is perhaps the most prominent spiritual leader of Mizrahi Jewry in Israel.

Whether the segregation between Ashkenazi and Mizrahi students was based on ethnicity or, as the Ashkenazim maintained, on the level of religious observance, it appears the Immanuel case will have a long-term effect on the Haredi community. It's not that discrimination will disappear. It won't disappear so quickly among the general public either, but there will be no more blatant signs of discrimination, such as separate student entrances. Yoav Laloum of the Noar Kahalacha group that filed the petition in the Immanuel case may be the most hated man on the Ashkenazi Haredi street, but the ultra-Orthodox community as a whole is likely to thank him for filing it.

Former Shas chairman Aryeh Deri filled the void created by the sustained silence of the ultra-Orthodox Sephardi party over the case. He created a whirlwind in Shas that ultimately spurred current chairman Eli Yishai to take control. In the end, the mediation approach pushed by Deri failed and the approach advocated by Yishai and the Slonim Hasidim was adopted by the High Court. Yishai may have won, but he now needs to contend with acrimony from Mizrahi Haredim. Deri lost, but reminded the public that he was still relevant and waiting to return as a leader.

The Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism also won, in the short run, by managing to bring all stripes of Ashkenazi Haredim together against the High Court of Justice. Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush of UTJ chalked up points for the mass rally he organized in Jerusalem and for his role in the final settlement, but attracted bitter criticism in the Haredi community as a rabble-rouser.

The only ones who really emerged victorious were the parents in the Hasidic track at the school, which was almost entirely Ashkenazi. Both the Ashkenazim and Sephardim among them were seen as prisoners of conscience and the heroes of the day among Haredim in Israel and abroad.