State Shutters Pirate Haredi School Over Segregation

The Education Ministry yesterday ordered a pirate ultra-Orthodox school in the West Bank settlement of Immanuel closed. The High Court, last August, ordered the state-sanctioned Beit Ya'akov school to stop segregating classes for Ashenazi and Sephardi girls.

Parents of 74 girls refused to obey, and they have been studying for the last three months in makeshift classes in a building next to the school.

Two weeks ago, the Education Ministry filed a complaint with the police against the parents for violating the compulsory education law after the local council refused to do so. The ministry officials said the closure order is now under the purview of the police.

Though the existence of the pirate school in Immanuel had been public knowledge for weeks, the ministry only managed to dispatch an inspector last week, who verified indeed there was instruction going on.

Ministry officials are examining the possibility of cutting funds to Beit Ya'akov commensurate with the number of Ashkenazi students who left.

Court: Sephardi girls' rights violated

Prior to last December, Beit Ya'akov was operating two separate instructional tracks - a Hasidic curriculum for students primarily of Ashkenazi descent and "the general track," whose students mostly had a Sephardi ethnic background.

The High Court of Justice ruled that the segregated classrooms "infringed on the Sephardi girls' right to equality," and that "the independent educational center" operating the school must "remove any sign... of discrimination that is widespread in the school."

Following the court ruling, which was adopted by the Education Ministry, 74 girls matriculated in Beit Ya'akov stopped attending classes. They were sent to study in makeshift classrooms in an apartment building near the school. The local council and the Education Ministry could not determine whether the students took Beit Ya'akov equipment and supplies for use in the pirate school.

The court had ruled in response to a petition from the Noar Kahalacha foundation, a non-government organization that combats anti-Sephardi discrimination in the ultra-Orthodox education system.

"I'm pleased to see the Education Ministry is beginning to exercise its authority against law breakers and those who violate halaka (Jewish religious law)," said the group's chief executive officer, Yoav Lalum. "These individuals are hurting our daughters."