Elad, Israel – Meir Shimoni, the director of the Haredi education sector in the Education Ministry, decided to close a  girls school in the haredi city of Elad due to its discrimination against Sephardi pupils.

The Zleznik Seminar school in Elad conducted an application process for pupils for the new academic year back in June. 118 girls applied, including 93 Sephardi girls and 25 Ashkenazi girls. Of the Sephardi applicants just five were accepted whereas 25 of the Ashkenazi pupils were accepted.

The Education Ministry intervened following legal objections by the Noar K’halahca anti-discrimination NGO and forced the school to annul the registration process and re-open the application process.

The Zleznik Seminary then re-opened registration and 41 Sephardi girls applied to the school, and 23 were accepted. However, it then established a new school for Ashkenazi students who were taught at a different site without the Sephardi girls.

Last week the Education Ministry warned the Zleznik school and the Mayor of Elad Yisrael Porush that the school would face closure and a cessation of state funding unless 50 percent of its pupils were Sephardi.

The school did not comply leading to the ministry’s decision on Monday to close the school down.

“We tried to put the best interests of all pupils in Elad first while adhering to a policy of fighting discrimination,” said Shimoni. “Unfortunately there are elements in the city who chose not to cooperate with the Ministry of Education and with the Mayor and who prioritised their personal interests above the interests of the girls.”

The Elad Municipality said in response that the mayor had been instructed by leading haredi rabbis to preserve the division between the two schools.

“When the argument between the administrations of the [Ashkenazi and Sephardi] schools developed the mayor received instructions both verbally and in writing from the great Torah scholars Rabbis Aharon Leib Shteinman, Haim Kanievsky, Gershon Edlestein, and Rabbi Moshe Hillel Hirsh, who said he should work for the good of both schools,” the municipality said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, due to the opposition of and slurs of various interested parties the Education Ministry decided to close one of the schools. The Mayor will take the counsel of the leading Torah schools in the coming days and will continue to work in accordance with their instructions.”

The controversy in Elad bears a striking resemblance to events in the haredi settlement of Emmanuel.

The Beit Yaakov school in the settlement physically divided the Ashkenazi and Sephardi girls schools, and when the High Court of Justice instructed the school to integrate the pupils, the parents board of the school set up a separate school for the Ashkenazi girls.

The parents of the Ashkenazi girls were ruled by the court to be in contempt of court and were arrested and jailed, leading to mass haredi protests.

(Article from VIN)