Israel’s Supreme Court has ordered the Bet Yaakov school in the West Bank settlement of Emmanuel to explain why its Ashkenazi and Mizrahi students are taught in separate classes. The Court also ordered the Ministry of Education to explain why the government-funded independent Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox school system, which practices widespread discrimination against Mizrahi students, is not properly supervised. The order follows a petition by NIF grantee Noar Kahalacha, which combats ethnic discrimination in ultra-Orthodox educational institutions.
This latest court order is the fruit of a coordinated campaign by NIF grantees to compel the government-funded independent Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox school system to cease its discrimination against Mizrahi students. The campaign has already produced results.
NIF organizations protest discrimination against
Mizrahi girls in ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi schools.
NIF grantee Tmura – The Israel Anti-Discrimination Legal Center, which brought the matter to the attention of Noar Kahalacha, has also submitted a civil suit to the Haifa District Court on the matter, claiming $14,000 per student for the psychological damage caused by the discrimination. And in March 2007, NIF's flagship grantee Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) successfully petitioned the Jerusalem District Court of Administrative Affairs after receiving complaints from the families of 113 Mizrahi girls rejected by Ashkenazi schools in Jerusalem. Judge Yehudit Zur instructed the Jerusalem Municipality and Ministry of Education to introduce measures to end the discrimination.
Yoav Laloum, Chairman of Noar Kahalacha, initially founded the organization to assist ultra-Orthodox teenagers who had left home. But he changed the emphasis after his own daughter was rejected by an Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox school in Jerusalem. He won a court case compelling the school to accept her and his organization now campaigns on behalf of all Mizrahi girls discriminated against by ultra-Orthodox schools.
"The ultra-Orthodox establishment has a lot of soul-searching to do," said Laloum. "This type of discrimination is totally unacceptable."