Supreme Court Rejects Joint Petition to Free Immanuel Fathers

Judges say compromise deal struck by attorney Ram Caspi and former Shas leader Arye Deri cannot be allowed to undermine original ruling against school segregation.

The Supreme Court on Friday rejected a petition from both sides in a row over segregation in Haredi schools, upholding jail sentences for Ashkenazi parents who refused to let their daughters study alongside Sefardi girls.

Ultra-Orthodox men at a High Court hearing on segregated West Bank school
Emil Salman

Petitioners requested the immediate release of 35 fathers serving two-week jail sentences, as well postponing by two months similar sentences for nine mothers.

The petition was signed by the plaintiff Rabbi Yoav Lalum, the State Prosecutor's Office, the Slonim Hassidic sect, and the Center for Independent Education.

In response to the petition, the Supreme Court said that though it would weigh the proposal, any new compromise could not supersede a previous court ruling against segregation at the school in the West Bank settlement Immanuel.

It was because they ignored this original ruling that parents received prison sentences.

"The plaintiffs must provide a written undertaking to comply with the order to unify the Hassidic and general tracks of the school and a pledge to send their daughters to a unified classroom," the Supreme Court response stated.

Friday's attempt to end the volatile dispute, which has brought thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jewish protesters onto Israel's streets, resulted from talks between attorney Ram Caspi and former Shas leader Aryeh Deri in an effort to strike a deal between the Haredi community and the state.

Negotiations had the backing of prominent Haredi figures including Rabbi David Yosef, son of Sefardi figurehead Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, and Rabbi Yaakov Cohen, a former Knesset member for the United Torah Judaism party.

Caspi, one of Israel's most prominents commercial lawyers, told Haaretz he was helping to mediate between the ultra-Orthodox Slonim community and the Education Ministry and State Prosecutor in order to prevent the imprisonment of mothers who had flouted the law.

"I am acting out of belief that this rift must be prevented," Caspi said.