The High Court of Justice suggested on Tuesday that it would not take a case requiring ultra-Orthodox schoolchildren to study core subjects like mathematics, English, literature, history and geography.
The case began with a petition to the High Court by Professors Amnon Rubinstein and Uriel Reichman, as well as former commander of the IDF Education Corps, Maj. Gen. (res.) Elazar Stern, to force state-funded ultra-Orthodox yeshivas to teach core studies required by the Education Ministry.
The petition comes in response to a 2008 law that permits the Education Ministry to fund elementary-level yeshivas despite the fact that they do not teach core subjects, such as English, mathematics, geography, literature, and history. The petitioners wrote that no democratic country in the world exempts state-funded educational institutions from state supervision.
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However, judges said there appeared to be no legal basis for striking the law down. The court held its final hearing on the matter with a full panel of nine judges, headed by High Court President Dorit Beinisch.
At the hearing, attorneys for the government argued that a change to the law would necessitate a change in well-established lifestyles and deeply rooted cultures, which cannot be done by force and in one fell swoop. "Those interested in a change should understand that it will not come through force, but through the building of trust, one step a time. Forceful intervention that lacks caution could reverse processes of openness and dialogue that are already underway. The Education Ministry continues to seek to integrate core studies in a way that everyone can accept," the representatives wrote.
During the debate over the petition, Justice Asher Grunis, a candidate to replace Beinisch upon her retirement as head of the Supreme Court, said, "The fact that a justice doesn't like a law, does not mean we can repeal it." Beinisch said, "Suppose we agree that our ruling should be based on the essential right to an education and transmission of values. The question is what is the legal basis for repealing the law?"
Attorney Raanan Har-Zahav, who represented the petitioners told the court, "We are talking about children who are not being taught even minimal skills. There is a minimal education that every child must receive, without which he cannot develop his abilities or function in the modern world."
The final ruling will be made at a later date.
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