Court Overturns Prison Sentences for Mothers in Israeli School Segregation Case

By Haaretz Service

Published June 22, 2010.

The High Court on Tuesday overturned prison sentences for ultra-Orthodox women charged with contempt for violating an order to reintegrate a girls’ seminary in the West Bank settlement of Immanuel.

In a dramatic ruling last week, judges demanded that Ashkenazi Jewish parents who refused to let their daughters attend classes with Sephardis must return their daughters to school or face a two-week jail term.

The decision sparked outrage in Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community, leading thousands to take to the streets to protest the verdict.

But on Tuesday, 13 mothers were exempted from prison altogether, while the remaining nine were allowed to delay serving their sentences until their jailed husbands returned home.

Before the hearing, one of the mothers told reporters that the court had no right to rule on the dispute, saying parents had simply carried out orders from their rabbis, who had a higher jurisdiction.

“It’s crazy to put mothers in jail,” she said. “Our rabbis always taught us: The law isn’t above the rabbis; the rabbis are above the law.”

Two fathers, who unlike 35 others had refused to turn themselves over to authorities, were given until July 5 to present themselves at a Jerusalem jail.



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