The case: There is a school in a Haredi (Ultra Orthodox) Samaria town called Emmanuel in Israel. This school segregated its students based on ethnicity. Some are ethnically Ashkenazi, meaning they spent most of their Diaspora time in Europe since the Roman expulsion in 70CE. Some are ethnically Sephardic, meaning they spent most of their time in Arabia. The school is segregated simply because racism is a serious problem in many Haredi communities. This, we do not support, and we certainly do not support segregation in Israel’s schools.

However, we believe racism is not the central issue in this case. What happened was, Rabbi Yakov Yosef, son of former Chief Sephardic Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, submitted a complaint to the court over the school’s segregation of its students. The court accepted his petition. This we have no problem with. What the court did next, though, was very problematic.

Israel’s Supreme Court, instead of pulling public funding from the school, simply forced the school to unite the students and end the segregation policy. That was their first mistake. Second, when Ashkenazi parents who didn’t want their children learning with Sephardim sent their kids to a different city to be privately educated, the court actually threw them in jail.

The High Court, by doing this, was essentially saying, “Either you educate your students by our values, or you don’t educate them at all and you go to jail.” This infringes on one of the most basic freedoms of educating your own children however you want to, provided you are being privately funded. We don’t support racism, but we do support the freedom to be racist provided the following two conditions are met:

   

1. You are not actively infringing on the rights of others.

   

2. You are not using public funds.

The Haredi parents sent to prison were sent to prison because they wanted their kids to only learn with Ashkenazim. This doesn’t infringe on Sephardi rights, because they can always go to a different school if they so choose. I went to a Jewish school that didn’t accept non Jews. This essentially is “racism,” but the school was privately funded and non Jews could always go somewhere else. Secondly, after the school was forced to desegregate, the parents privately funded their children’s education. If the court says this is still unacceptable, they are seriously overstepping their boundaries, and it opens a dangerous can of worms.

Tomorrow, based on this precedent, the court can suddenly say that any school that does not teach two hours of Hamas Philosophy a day will be forced to do so, and any parent who refuses to send their child to such a school will be arrested. The court could conceivably claim that if a school refuses to teach Hamas propaganda, that school is racist against Arabs. It’s the same legal mechanism and argument.

The only thing the court had the right to do was strip the Emmanuel school of public funding until such a time as it either decided to go private, or desegregate their classes. But the Israeli Supreme Court is power drunk and abusive. This makes sense, being that it is the only court in the entire Western world that elects itself to the bench without any confirmation by Israel’s parliament (Knesset) or the people.

The Emmanuel case is not about racism. It is about who has primary responsibility for educating the next generation. The State (i.e. the Supreme Court), or the parents?

According to Judaism, it’s the parents. “You shall teach them (the commandments) to your children,” (Deuteronomy). So even if we disagree with their values, they must be allowed the freedom to educate however they feel is fitting provided they are not using public money. This is the cornerstone of any free society and democratic state. The Supreme Court should never be used for cultural coercion. If it is, it is the sign of a dictatorship in democratic clothing.