web analytics
October 1, 2014 / 7 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Blame Liberal Media, Courts For Emmanuel Controversy

The headlines in Israel are filled with the mass arrest and imprisonment of a group of haredi parents for disobeying a court order commanding them to send their children to one school and not to another. The world media have discovered the story of intra-Jewish “racism” inside Israel and by and large are repeating the twist to the story provided by Israel’s largely leftist media. And, as usually happens, the Israeli media, by covering the story to suit their own biases and ideological agenda, are getting just about everything wrong.
 
Bear in mind that the Israeli media despise haredim, routinely portraying them as everything demonic and evil in the universe, down to and including “racist.” Ask any Israel or any non-Israeli who has heard about the judicial Mexican standoff regarding the girls’ school in Emmanuel and he or she will tell you it is all about “racism” on the part of Ashkenazi haredim against Sephardim/Mizrachim.
 
I Googled “Emmanuel girls school racism” as a set of key words and got 78,000 hits in English and 36,000 in Hebrew.
 
Putting aside the silliness of referring to intra-Jewish sub-ethnic tensions as “racism,” even a shallow reading beyond the headlines in Israel’s conscripted media is enough to show there is much more to the story than meets the blind eye.
 
Consider: the Shas party, which was created as a Sephardic religious power bloc, is backing the Ashkenazi parents in the feud (with a few individual Shas leaders on the other side). The leading Israeli journalist denouncing the courts and the media’s misrepresentation of the story is Maariv’s Ben Dror Yemini – who comes from a Yemenite family and is a leading voice of Sephardic pride and protest. And among the supposedly racist anti-Sephardic parents arrested by court order were several Sephardim.
 
On the other hand, the Supreme Court justices are predominantly Ashkenazi (one of those issuing the order to jail the parents, Edmund E. Levy, is Sephardi) as are the media talking heads cheering on the court and its “defense of democracy.”
 
While the Emmanuel controversy is complex, virtually nothing in the story has anything to do with ethnic prejudice or bigotry. It has a lot to do with haredi autonomy, state funding for independent haredi schools, school choice, and judicial tyranny.
 
First of all, despite the media’s obsession with painting the Ashkenazi parents from the Emmanuel girls’ school as anti-Sephardic bigots, the school itself is far more integrated than most secular schools in Israel, with a large number of the girls coming from Sephardic/Mizrachi families.
 
It turns out a handful of Sephardic girls were indeed denied admission to the first school, but the real reason had everything to do with religiosity and nothing to do with ethnicity. The school’s governing board believed the girls in question were not sufficiently committed to the school’s haredi lifestyle.
 
The Ashkenazi parents in the controversy are mainly members of the Slonim chassidic court, which has a track record of admitting girls from outside the court to its community school – so long as the girls comply with the community’s level of religiosity. (These include such matters as buttoning girls’ shirts to the neck and not one button shy of the neck, praying with the texts and pronunciations the Slonim use, and so on.)
 
The feud in the school is not between Ashkenazim and Sephardim but between haredim, who do not want any kids in the school whose notions of religiosity fall one shirt button below their own, and an imperious activist court that demands they do so.
 
Most Sephardic families live lifestyles and hold viewpoints that differ from those of the Slonim haredim, though some still prefer the Slonim school in Emmanuel for their kids. When the school admissions committee has doubts about the devotion of a student’s family to the school’s brand of observance, it sends the youngster instead to a nearby predominantly Sephardic girls school, where the standards for neck buttons are not as strict.
 
(I should point out here that if anyone suspects me of harboring any anti-Sephardic bigotry, they will have to contend with my wife, who was a proud Sephardic woman long before she lowered her standards and married my Ashkenazi self 25 years ago.)
 
The conflict was brought before the Israeli court when the family of two girls turned down by the school got themselves some lawyers, evidently paid for by the New Israel Fund. The judges presiding on the court sided with the petitioners. Hundreds of Ashkenazi parents in the school then decided to bus their kids away to a different school rather than have them sit in the same classroom with those they regard as insufficiently observant. The court ordered them to desist and to return their kids to the Emmanuel school. They refused. The court responded by ordering dozens of parents be imprisoned for contempt of court.
 
Let me be clear. I am all in favor of conditioning Israeli state funding to haredi schools on such things as their adding a bit of math and science to Talmud studies in order to make their students gainfully employable. If Rashi and Rambam could hold jobs and build careers alongside their scholarship, I see no reason why haredim in Israel today cannot. But if they are willing to forgo state funding, the state should let them run their schools as they see fit.
 
The fact is, both Labor and Likud – as a means of buying the support of the haredi parties for government coalitions – have long ladled out funding to haredi schools with no conditionality at all – including admissions criteria for students. Those dirty deals of tossing out pecuniary pork with no conditions in exchange for political backing created the current Emmanuel standoff.
 
I also believe in democracy and pluralism. I believe Jews in Israel have the right to live and to school their kids in ways different from my own notions. I also believe the worst fanatics in this story are the judicial activists on the court.
 
The court has picked a fight with the huge Israeli haredi community, and in response tens of thousands took to the streets in their black hats and long coats in the 95-degree heat to challenge the legitimacy of the court’s decision.
 

I do not see how the court can win this battle. And it shouldn’t.

 

 

Steven Plaut is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.

About the Author: Steven Plaut is a professor at the University of Haifa. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Blame Liberal Media, Courts For Emmanuel Controversy”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Abu Usamah Somali, thought to be Farah Mohammed Shirdon of Calgary, Alberta in Canada.
Canadian ISIS Fighter Threatens to Behead Netanyahu [video]
Latest Indepth Stories
terrorists

Is the global community clear in its response to these extremist groups?

obama

Like our fabled character, Don Quixote, President Obama has constantly spawned his own reality.

Ayatollah Hossein-Kazamani Boroujerdi, in better times (left) and in his prison cell (right).

Boroujerdi was informed that “the pressures and tortures will increase until he has been destroyed.”

Senior Hamas and Fatah leaders in Gaza City on April 22. Hamas and Fatah signed a deal to establish a unity government, but since then little progress has been made.

Fatah: Hamas stole relief aid for Gaza and distributed it amongst its followers in mosques.

Can teenagers seriously be expected to behave properly when they are surrounded by so much suggestive material? Is it fair to expose them (and ourselves) to so much temptation and then tell them, “Just say no”?

Washington remains ignorant of the need to dismantle alliances with various Muslim countries.

Defeating IS requires bombing its strongholds and recognizing the violent nature of Islam.

Abbas again used the UN to attack Israel, distort history, and undermine prospects for peace.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority cannot even agree to move their clocks back on the same day.

Shemita is about relating to each other by temporarily eliminating gaps of wealth power & status

David transcended adversity to become a leader; Who are we to make excuses for a lack of greatness?

sympathy: Feeling sorrow or pity for another’s tribulations; Empathy:sharing an emotional experience

Last week the president announced a four-point plan. Unfortunately, there’s little buy-in from our European and Middle Eastern allies. Here’s my own four-point plan that may be more palatable to our allies.

Rosh Hashanah has an obvious connection to God’s Kingship. We constantly refer to Him during the Asseres Yemei Teshuvah as Melech/King. The nusach of the tefillah, referring to Rosh Hashanah as “a remembrance of the first day” (of Creation), implies a certain dimension of divine kingship operating at the time of Creation and replicated every […]

Yes, God judges, but His judgment is that of a loving father who longs for his child’s quick return.

Anti-Semitism has returned to the mainstream of European society and Israel has become its focus.

More Articles from Steven Plaut
brant

“Jewish Voices for Peace,” a Hamas lobby created by Jewish anti-Semites.

The same by any name

The real enemy of Israel is not Arab fascism but Jewish leftism.

Neo-Nazis claim that Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is in fact a Mossad agent named Elliot Shimon

One grey night it happened, Bibi caved no more
& Poof that Foggy Bottomer, he vanished from our sight

It’s six K, five K, four K, Graft !
(Daylight come and da jail’s his new home)

In 2012, an initiative was begun in the Knesset led by David Rotem (from the Yisrael Beitenu party), to cut the stipends and pensions paid to convicted murderers and terrorists by 50 percent.

When the Temple was in existence, Jews were religiously obligated to eat roast meat at least once a year.

I have frequently drawn up lists of what I love most about Israel, and Arik Einstein has ranked high.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/blame-liberal-media-courts-for-emmanuel-controversy/2010/06/23/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: