Comptroller Probing Charges of Discrimination in Haredi Schools

Jewish families of Middle Eastern descent: Schools rejected our children because of their ethnic background.

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss is examining allegations of ethnic discrimination in the ultra-Orthodox school system, he announced this week at a joint meeting of the State Control Committee and the Knesset's Education, Culture and Sports Committee. The investigation is expected to last several weeks.

At the meeting at the Knesset on Tuesday, Lindenstrauss said investigators had already heard testimony from a number of Jewish families of Middle Eastern descent who reported that their children had been discriminated against, primarily in seeking admission to some ultra-Orthodox schools.

Sources say the purported discrimination is taking place in Beit Shemesh, the West Bank settlement of Emmanuel and elsewhere. In the past, ultra-Orthodox authorities have said students were segregated because of differing levels of religious observance, not ethnic background.

The Education Ministry has rejected that position in the case of a Beit Yaakov Haredi girls school in Emmanuel.

"It is appropriate that any manifestation of discrimination be uprooted," Knesset Education Committee chairman Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) said at the meeting. "This manner is absolutely contrary to the student rights law. Oversight legislation gives the Education Ministry's director general the authority to order the closure of a school after warning that it is in violation of the law, but to my regret, the law is one thing and reality is another."