The plan: ultra-Orthodox boys will use the girls' classrooms (seriously)

Hiddush to petition Supreme Court if yeshivas open before state schools

Hiddush to Corona Cabinet and the other relevant authorities: We will appeal to the Supreme Court if you make an exception for ultra-Orthodox education and permit gender discrimination.

Woman wearing surgical mask, Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay Woman wearing surgical mask, Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

In Hiddush’s strongly worded letter, we demanded that ultra-Orthodox educational institutions in Israel not be exempted from the restrictions imposed upon Israel’s entire education system and that the exclusion of ultra-Orthodox female students be prevented.

Hiddush’s communication followed media reports of a unilateral plan, according to which ultra-Orthodox schools would open their doors, whether with the approval of the authorities or without it. According to the media and unnamed ultra-Orthodox figures, the plan is based on leaving female students at home so that the male students would have more free classrooms in order to allow bigger distance between the students.

Hiddush: "To the extent that discriminatory decisions are made regarding the operation of educational institutions, we will immediately appeal to the High Court.”

On Tuesday, in an urgent letter, Hiddush wrote to the Prime Minister, the Ministers of Health and Education, the Speaker of the Knesset, the Attorney General, and the Acting Commissioner of Police, demanding equal treatment of ultra-Orthodox educational institutions and all other educational institutions regarding their being shutdown due to the high infection levels.

In the letter, Hiddush writes that: "For a long time now, the media has been reporting on the Israeli government making dangerous and unwarranted pandemic-related decisions under ultra-Orthodox political pressure, reflected also in the police’s conduct in relation to this sector... Just yesterday, footage of an ultra-Orthodox school was seen, operating, as if there was no lockdown."

Hiddush notes that: "To the extent that the health authorities maintain that keeping schools open poses a real danger at this time, you have shut them all down - It is necessary for the Corona Cabinet, Health and Education Ministries and law enforcement authorities to clearly and firmly manifest that they will not put up with the violation of the law and the illegal opening of schools, at the risk of public health and well-being. Politically motivated concessions to one sector in the population cannot be allowed."

Only boys would be returning to their studies in small groups, using empty classrooms at girls’ schools, for the female students would be staying at home...

Another element of the plan indicated in the media reports, was that only boys would be returning to their studies in small groups, using empty classrooms at girls’ schools, for the female students would be staying at home because “boys are under religious obligation to study Torah, while girls are not”. In the letter, also representing the feminist NGO ‘Kulan – to promote feminist discourse and action in Israel’, Hiddush holds that, "The exclusion of female students and the ease with which the ultra-Orthodox educational authorities are willing to discriminate against them, is no less grievous than holding in-class studies during the lock-down."

Hiddush referred to its previous intervention, in May, when ultra-Orthodox schools in Jerusalem resumed classes for boys while keeping the female students at home. At the time the Deputy Attorney General accepted Hiddush’s complaint and instructed the relevant authorities to prevent such gender discriminatory policy which is in direct breach of Israeli law. Unfortunately, Hiddush now maintains, it seems that this clear instruction and the thrust of the law seem to have not made sufficient impact.

Hiddush CEO, Rabbi Uri Regev, Esq. stressed that, "Allowing such schools to re-open with the knowledge or even explicit approval of the local government is against the law and highlights the need to stop a lax policy of finding low level fall guys and leaving those who are the real culprits unscathed. If the plans described in the media are going to materialize - It is imperative to order an immediate investigation and prosecute the senior parties involved in committing these offenses, whether these are the school principals, municipal education executives or even mayors, if they do not exercise municipal supervision to stop the violations."

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