Education Min. Tells Local Council to End Segregation at Girls School

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar yesterday instructed the Immanuel Local Council to begin taking measures against the parents of Ashkenazi students in the West Bank settlement's Beit Yaakov girls' school who have refused to send their daughters to school after the institution received a High Court order to end segregation between Ashkenazi and Mizrahi pupils.

Local council head Ezra Gershi said he had not received any complaints of discrimination at the school, and that "everyone is happy that every person has his or her own corner."

Some 150 students are registered at Immanuel's Beit Yaakov primary school in two study tracks: "Hasidic," for girls of Ashkenazi (European) origin, and "General," for those of Mizrahi (Middle Eastern) background.

In August, the Supreme Court ordered the ultra-Orthodox education system to "remove every formal and material sign of this rampant discrimination." Following the ruling, the Education Ministry determined that the two study tracks must be immediately merged.

Last week around 70 students in the Hasidic track stayed home from school in protest, attending class in unauthorized buildings instead.

A ministry representative said yesterday that it holds "a harsh view of the parents' behavior in refusing to let their daughters attend school." Lamenting the parents' "stubbornness," the ministry stated it had instructed the local council to take immediate steps to return the pupils to class.

Gershi said yesterday that the ministry's order "will be handled by the [local council's] education department, but it is clear this will be a very long process." He said the problem of discrimination at the Beit Yaakov school had been present for years, but that today, after the opening of a Shas-run school for Mizrahi students, "there is no problem, and everyone who remains at the Beit Yaakov school agrees that studies will be conducted separately."

"There is not a single student who is unhappy with the current arrangement - everyone is smiling," he said. "I don't understand why the ministry is so insistent."

Yoav Lalum of the Noar Kahalacha non-profit organization, who filed the High Court petition, said yesterday, "We have been contacted by a number of parents begging that we not stop the struggle, and continue fighting so that all of the girls can study together."