Israeli Court Rejects Suit by ex-ultra-Orthodox Jews Claiming They Were Denied a Good Education

The judge says the statute of limitations disqualifies plaintiffs over 25, but the others will get another chance in court

Haredi boys at a school in Jerusalem's Meah She'arim neighborhood.
Gil Cohen-Magen

The Jerusalem District Court has rejected a suit by 52 former ultra-Orthodox Jews who claimed they were denied a basic education and left lagging far behind secular Israelis. The court, however, cited a statute of limitations that will give a minority of the plaintiffs a chance to reargue their case.

The plaintiffs, who are now secular themselves, had filed their suit against the ministries of education, economy and defense at the end of 2015 for damages totaling about 4 million shekels ($1.1 million).

They said the state had neglected its duties by not requiring their schools and yeshivas to teach core subjects like math, English and science. This denied them the basic skills to complete a university education, enter a profession and make a respectable living, they said.

“I accept the state’s argument and rule that the statute of limitations applies to claimants who were older than 25 when they submitted the suit,” Judge Moshe Bar-Am wrote in the decision. “The plaintiffs will submit a list of claimants who were under 25 when they filed the suit, after which an appropriate ruling on their case will be handed down.”

The plaintiffs said the state’s failure to supervise ultra-Orthodox schools also led to education gaps that prevented them from serving in the army, an experience that can be vital in helping an Israeli find a good job. The state said it could not be held responsible because it provides diverse education opportunities in various schools for all the country’s children.

“The plaintiffs and their parents could choose from a variety of existing schools that are suitable to their worldview and way of life, so they should direct their suit against their parents and the schools,” the state said.

It added that if the court rules to compensate any of the plaintiffs, the state is entitled to compensation from the parents and the schools the plaintiffs attended.

The state successfully argued for a seven-year statute of limitations, with the count starting at age 18.

The plaintiffs said the count should start only once they realized the damage that had been done to them; that is, the time they reported for military service or applied for admission to a college or university.

The plaintiffs said they would decide in the next few days on their next steps. The NGO Yotzim Leshinui, which advocates on behalf of people who leave the Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, world, said it would continue the fight “until justice is done.”