Israeli Lecturer Posts Want Ad for 'Males Only' in Defiance of Court Ruling

Open University says it hires employees 'based on their quality and suitability, not their gender,' and deleted the ad calling for only male respondents shortly after it was posted

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The Open University of Israel
The Open University of IsraelCredit: Ofer Vaknin

A lecturer from the Open University seeking to fill a teaching position for ultra-Orthodox students published an advertisement for male respondents alone, in direct contradiction to a High Court of Justice ruling on this matter.

Ultra-Orthodox men study separately from female students at the university, and the original ad specifically stated that the candidate must be male. It was circulated among university faculty, and deleted shortly after it was posted. It was replaced with a new ad directed at both men and women. In response to a query from Haaretz, the university said the ad had been released “due to an administrative error and was immediately corrected.”

In July 2021, the High Court ruled that the Council for Higher Education in Israel may hold separate tracks for men and women to overcome the difficulty of enrolling ultra-Orthodox students in academic studies. However, Justices Hanan Melcer, Neal Hendel, Uzi Vogelman, Anat Baron and Yosef Elron ruled that the policy banning women from teaching in the all-male track must be immediately lifted and that there must be no gender separation in public spaces at the university.

In his ruling, Melcer supported the continuation of gender-segregated tracks, but stated: “The policy of male-only tracks in which women are not permitted to teach, in the current framework, does not meet the standards of the ruling of the restriction, and it must be immediately lifted.”

Vogelman, who held the minority opinion that no separate tracks should be allowed based on gender, stated in his ruling that barring women from teaching men (while men are allowed to teach women) constitutes “real damage to the group of women lecturers.” The justices ruled unanimously that “women must be allowed to lecture in any framework without discrimination.”

Dr. Yofi Tirosh, one of the High Court petitioners against the policy of gender-separate tracks in academic institutions, said that the higher education system is now preparing to “open the second academic year since the High Court ruling, and it does not seem that the Council for Higher Education in Israel is conveying a clear message banning discrimination against women lecturers, despite the ruling that this is prohibited discrimination.”

The Open University said in a statement that it “hires employees and teaching staff according to their quality and suitability, without any reference to their gender or any unprofessional criterion.” According to the Open University, the Yanar Center in Jerusalem – where the gender-segregated groups study – is an external ultra-Orthodox institution that also holds Open University classes.

The university added that there are male and female students at the center, who are taught by both male and female lecturers. However, it did not say whether female lecturers are assigned to classes with male students, or if they teach female students alone.

Uri Keidar, director of the Israel Hofsheet ("Be Free Israel") movement, said in response: “Anyone who thinks that a bribe can be paid at a low price to the 'golden calf' of gender separation will discover that it will never be enough.” According to Keidar, “this separation must be immediately eradicated, and the Open University will soon have to explain its actions in court.”

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