Know More About Palestine

Saturday June 19, 2010 10:23 AM (EST+7)

RAMALLAH, June 19 (JMCC) - An Israeli court ruling banning segregation in Israeli schools has set up a confrontation between Israel's secular legal system and a large ultra-orthodox population, reports The National. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must tread lightly between the two or risk losing his coalition.

Anshel Pfeffer, an analyst with the liberal Haraetz newspaper, said the politicians “can do the political maths. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will lose his coalition if he is seen in any way to be supporting government interference in haredi schools.”

Friction between the courts and the haredim has been growing on a number of fronts, including recent rulings that remove an exemption from military service enjoyed by most ultra-Orthodox men and that end special income benefits that allow 10,000 young men to study the Bible without working.

The 700,000 haredim – whose growth rate is the highest in the country, with an average of seven children per family – have also angered secular Israelis with evermore confident displays of their political and social power.

They stage regular, and often violent, protests to stop building work in areas they deem ancient burial sites, to prevent government officials entering their communities, to stop firms and public institutions opening on the sabbath, and to enforce separation between men and women on public buses passing though their communities.

But strains have been deepest over the haredi education system, which is run with virtually no oversight from the state but is mostly paid for from the public purse. Secular Israelis view the schools, which educate one-fifth of Israeli children but spurn modern subjects in favour of religious studies, as being largely responsible for the high levels of poverty among the haredim and their failure to integrate into mainstream society.

Tensions have come to a head, however, over practices at a single school in the West Bank settlement of Immanuel, near Nablus, and home to about 3,000 haredim.

The Supreme Court ruled nearly a year ago that segregation at the girls’ junior school must end immediately. A partition wall had been erected to separate haredi children, largely on the basis of differences in ethnic background.

Ashkenazic families, whose ancestry is European, claim they are more strictly observant than their Sephardic neighbours, who originally came from the Middle East, North Africa and the Iberian peninsula, and that mixing may harm the Ashkenazic girls. Nationally, about one-fifth of haredim are believed to be Sephardic.

After the wall was removed, 43 Ashkenazic couples withdrew their daughters from school. Last week the court ordered that the parents serve a fortnight in jail, until the school year ends.

Read the story at The National...






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