Principal Refusing to Sanction Parents in Integration Row

The ultra-Orthodox Beit Yaakov school in Immanuel is not taking measures against parents who are refusing to send their daughters to school in the wake of a High Court of Justice order to integrate the institution's separate classes for girls of Ashkenazi and Mizrahi origin.

About 150 students are enrolled in the school's two tracks: "Hasidic," for girls of Ashkenazi (European) origin, and "General," for those of Mizrahi (Middle Eastern) background.

In August the High Court ordered the removal of "every formal and material sign of this rampant discrimination," and the Education Ministry ordered a merger of the two tracks.

Since mid-December around 75 students, most of them of Ashkenazi descent, have been studying in private homes. In response, the ministry ordered the Immanuel Local Council to take legal action against the parents for violating the mandatory education law.

Several sources say that in a High Court session last week, it was disclosed that the Independent Education Center had instructed principal Rivka Stern not to take measures against the parents on the grounds that such action would be considered a violation of din moser - the religious prohibition against revealing information about a Jew to non-Jewish authorities.

Attorney Menahem Yanovsky, who represents the independent school system, confirmed that Stern would be exposed to din moser if she sent letters to the parents as part of the procedure for getting them to return their daughters to the school or to prosecute them.

"Even the judges told the Education Ministry attorney that the principal will not sign the letters," an education center official said yesterday. "We won't be policemen and the matter doesn't concern us. It's the parents' decision not to send their daughters" to the school.

Stern declined to comment, and Yanovsky did not respond to messages from Haaretz.

Most of the girls who stopped attending school now study in a nearby two-story apartment building. Yesterday their lessons were clearly audible from outside the building.

"Because the parents don't want to violate the court's decision that the girls have to study together, they decided to hold separate classes," one Immanuel man explained yesterday. "It's not a racist thing, but rather a question of different levels of religious observance. It's the parents' right to choose the Hasidic track for their daughters," he said.

According to a parent at the school, "The Mizrahi students don't feel a connection to the Hasidic track. The High Court and the Education Ministry have to recognize that these are two different worlds."

Last month the Education Ministry was harshly critical of the Ashkenazi parents. Ministry officials yesterday said the Immanuel Local Council is responsible for dealing with the affair. Local Council head Ezra Gershi said that the first step in the procedure is for the school to send letters to the parents, which "has still not been done. We're waiting for the High Court's ruling," Gershi said.