Ministry Thwarts Efforts to Keep Hasidic Girls Separate at School

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar yesterday ordered a Bnei Brak school not to accept the Ashkenazi girls from Immanuel, whose parents have been fighting against a Supreme Court ruling that their daughters must attend classes with Sephardi girls. The parents had attempted to send their girls to the Bnei Brak school in an attempt to bypass the court.

An Israeli classroom
Moti Milrod

The Education Ministry believes the parents' actions constitute a violation of the court order, which demanded that Immanuel's Beit Yaakov school integrate the mostly Ashkenazi students in the Hasidic track with those in the "general" program at the school, who are predominantly Sephardi, by last week.

This is the second time that the Hasidic parents have failed in efforts to send the girls to schools outside the settlement.

A final hearing is due to be held before the Supreme Court this week.

Last week, the admor of Slonim - the spiritual leader of most of the parents whose daughters are in the Hasidic program - declared he would assume all responsibility for the parents' refusal to obey the court's ruling. The admor, Rabbi Shmuel Berezovsky, who made a rare trip to see his followers in Immanuel yesterday, announced more than a month ago that he would go to prison before he adheres to the ruling.

Sources close to the admor now say he would like to make a deposition before the court with respect to his ostensibly criminal act of "sedition."

The visit by the admor caused a great deal of excitement in the small ultra-Orthodox settlement in the northern West Bank. The atmosphere was dampened, however, as several hours prior to his arrival news broke that efforts to send the Hasidic girls to Beit Malka, a school in Bnei Brak belonging to the Belz Hasidic movement, had failed.

The school accepted the pupils yesterday morning, following the personal order of the admor of Belz. The institution arranged for separate rooms to allow the Immanuel pupils to retain their usual classes. However, Haaretz learned that the Belz Hasidim were told beforehand that such a move was legally problematic.

Several hours after the start of the first day of school for the Immanuel girls in Bnei Brak, the order from the Ministry of Education arrived, forbidding the arrangement. After discovering that 74 girls were bused to Beit Malka, the ministry quickly informed the institution that its cooperation constituted contempt of court.

The parents in Immanuel called the Ministry of Education order "persecution."

"On the one hand the court recognizes that what guides us is our religious obligation, on the other hand it does not permit any other school to accept us and closes all options before us," one of the parents said.

Attorney Aviad Hacohen, who represents the petitioners in the case, had written a letter to all sides involved, urging them to find a compromise. However, he also noted that at a time when an agreement was being sought, the Hasidim parents "continue to attempt, behind the scenes, to blatantly violate the court decision."