Sunday, June 20, 2010


I Insulted Israel

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

This past Shabbos my family was invited to our rav for Shabbos night. It was a lovely meal, good Torah and conversation. Also visiting was some guests from outside Israel.

They asked what was going on with the religious protests and the school in Immanuel. I explained, and to repeat in very very brief (certainly not doing it justice)... the town of Immanual has one religious girls school that operates under the Chinuch Atzmai system - which means they get 40% government school funding but get to set their own curriculum. Most ultra-orthodox schools in Israel are Chinuch Atzmai.

The school has a regular track, which non-religious and somewhat religious girls attend, and an ultra-orthodox track, where chassidic and sephardi girls who keep an ultra-orthodox lifestyle attend. Some time ago (a year or two) a sephardi father wanted to put his daughter into the ultra-orthodox track, but was rejected. He claimed the rejection was due to ethnic reasons (sephardim in Israel are sometimes discriminated against in schooling), the school claimed it was because his family didn't meet the religious requirements of the ultra-orthodox track.

He took the case to the Israeli Supreme Court (which is not like other countries where you go through layers of appeal courts, anyone can file a Supreme Court Case for any reason - it just takes the right money for the right attorneys to do so). The Court ruled it was discrimination, and ruled they had the right to order the school to do whatever they said because it receives that 40% public funding.

But here's where it gets weird. The Court ordered the ultra-orthodox track opened to any girl, regardless of ethnic background or religious observance. In other words, non-religious girls could enter the ultra-orthodox track just by asking to do so, not having to meet any standards of such a track. The Court didn't set up penalties, change school funding or anything like that. They just ordered the religious track to mix in the non-religious girls.

The school had no choice but to obey the court. But the parents in the ultra-orthodox track refused to allow their girls to continue to attend if the program mixed in the non-religious girls - so en masse they pulled out their girls. They tried to send their girls to an ultra-orthodox school in another town, but the Ministry of Education threatened to close down the other school if they accepted any of these girls!

So the parents said fine, we'll just keep our girls home for the last month of the year. The Court said doing so prevents what we were trying to do, and that's Contempt of Court. So you, the parents, (44 sets of parents include 11 sephardi parents) are in Contempt of Court and must go to jail! (Unless you let your girls go for the last two weeks of the school year.)

So the ultra-orthodox protested, about 1/2 the parents disappeared, and about 1/2 went to jail (leaving their children at home with no parents by order of the court).

Naturally this whole situation is nuts, it's somewhat a power play between secular officials and the ultra-orthodox community, and shows two sides of the wacked legal system in Israel - a Court that makes crazy rulings with no foundation that can be respected, and people that increasingly don't respect the Court rulings because they do things like this and because they don't feel represented on the Court (which is rather monolithic secular ashkenazi old power elites).

So at the end of this (brief, yeah right brief) explanation the visitors turned to me and said, "boy, I certainly wouldn't want to live here!"

And at that moment I knew I was chayav (responsible) for defaming Eretz Yisroel. Just like the spies, it wasn't that they hadn't seen what they saw, it was in how they explained it.

Let's be clear, there are more religious, ultra-religious, and Torah schools of so many various types in Israel. More combined in Israel that everywhere else in the world put together. Consistently the top schools for education and behavior in Israel are the religious schools. And while the government doesn't wholeheartedly or fully fund the religious schools, they do fund them and provide buildings for them nonetheless.

There is more Torah learning going on in Israel at this time then since the 2nd Beis HaMikdash. The biggest yeshivas of Europe had 500 talmidim, the biggest yeshivas of our time have 10,000 talmidim!

Yes, there's some secular - religious conflict in Israel. But there's far more that brings most of us together than pushes us apart. The most secular Israeli Jew celebrates Passover, eats matzah, fasts on Yom Kippur, and sits in a Succah, things even synagogue attending reform or conservative Jews may not do outside of Israel.

So dear Israel, I apologize. It's not perfect, but it is home! And we may have some sibling squabbles, but we're still family.


  1. I'm sorry to impose, but while you are talking about Israel's imperfection, please also take a look at this story at

    and do something (like pray or more)
    for Eliel and his family.

    Tizku L'Mitzvos!

  2. it doesn't sound to me like you insulted israel, akiva. i think these people perhaps don't understand. but you didn't insult israel.

  3. Thanks for the article - this is the first one I've read that actually explains the situation on the ground in a way that is understandable. None of the mainstream papers (at least those available in English) have provided this level of detail.

  4. Reb Akiva, you might have even more to be sorry for. I don't know how you could have believed that non-religious people live in the Haredi town of Emmanuel, and if you think it is plausible that non-religious people could likewise live in your community.

    I posted this response at another blog that publicized the seemingly credible account you more or less quoted:

    ... I confirm you've been had. While the version you brought did seem to be the most credible version so far, there is one 'small' itsy bitsy flaw.

    I just spoke to a black-hat, frum Sefaradi from Emmanuel who teaches in a local evening kollel (in my city) and asked him if in fact this was an issue with non-religious children, mixed dancing, etc... and he looked at me and said, do I look non-religious?? Do you think my kids are non-religious?

    He confirmed what I had thought I knew until I read the loshon hara written in this article you posted. There are no non-religious families in Emmanuel, and there are in fact four girls schools, including a Habad one. The girls were removed from school only a month ago, and sent daily to makeshift school in Bnei Brak. These Sefardim did not want to send their kids to the Slonim school either.

  5. Non religeous girls? I dodn't think there're non religeous people in Emanuel. I'd really like to know though exactly what religeous standards have to be met in order to enroll in the chassidic tract. No TV? (that's understandable, but I doubt too many people have TVs in Emanuel). No internet? (Still can understand the parents) No kitniyot on Pesach even if you're sefardi? (way far fetched and wrong in my opinion).

  6. IMO, the Slonim have a right to their traditions, and to demand them from the girls enrolling to their school as well, apparently, 25% of the school was Sefaradi and did meet those conditions.

    But to call the other girls non-religious is blatant slander.


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