Imprisoned Immanuel Father: 'Our Children Will Study This in History Books'

Incarcerated at the Maasiyahu prison since last week by order of the High Court of Justice for contempt of court for failing to return his daughter to classes at the Beit Yaakov school in Immanuel, one of the fathers spoke to Haaretz yesterday about his experience.

He and other fathers of Beit Yaakov students have been in prison since the court found them in contempt for violating an order to reintegrate the school after students had been separated through the creation of a separate Hasidic track of studies at the school.

Proponents of the separate classes have contended that the tracks are not designed to separate Ashkenazi and Sephardi children based on their ethnic backgrounds, but rather because the Hasidic track is reserved for children from families that more rigorously observe religious practices. Underlying this argument, the father who spoke to Haaretz recounted a visit to Maasiyahu prison by one of the leading rabbis from the Lithuanian branch of Hasidism, Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman.

The father recounted that Steinman asked to speak to the fathers at Maasiyahu in Yiddish, but was told that a third of the group does not speak Yiddish as they are Sephardic themselves. The fathers are being held in a separate prison wing where they are not heavily guarded, and have not been required to wear prisoners' uniforms.

The father said: "It's very hot. Of course there are no air conditioners in the cells. There are giant cockroaches that you don't see in the outside world."

He added that nonetheless, his group is very happy, adding: "The story happening here is much bigger than our personal story. It's clear that this is a moment of the greatest tension between religion and state. It's clear to me that our children will study what is happening now in history books."