Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

30 Tishrei 5766 - November 2, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Beitar Illit Challenges Decision to Exclude the City from Hot Lunch Program

by Tzvi Sofer

Beitar Illit Mayor Rabbi Yitzchok Pindrus submitted a request on Monday through Attorney David Rotem to hold an additional High Court hearing on the petition regarding Beitar's exclusion from the hot lunch program after the previous petition was rejected by Deputy High Court President Mishel Cheshin.

Two weeks ago Judge Cheshin rejected Beitar Illit's petition to require the Education Ministry to include all of the children in the city in the government's hot lunch program. He ruled that the State may provide free lunches only for the government institutions, Chinuch Atzmai and Maayan Hachinuch HaTorani. However 23 talmudei Torah and "recognized but unofficial" and "exempt" institutions would be ineligible for this funding because "they do not fulfill the aims of the Government Education Law," the High Court said. Judge Cheshin caused a political tempest by adding if parents want their children to receive lunch, "let these children come to government schools." (See editorial in this issue.)

After the appeal was rejected, Rabbi Pindrus set up a team of jurists to thoroughly evaluate the High Court decision and they recommended filing a request for an additional hearing. In its request the City of Beitar Illit argues the educational aims at the city's chareidi schools, without exception, are consistent with the Government Education Law and as such increasing the number of study hours and their funding would help these institutions expand and deepen the students' knowledge and education.

"The very existence of Chinuch Atzmai and exempt, chareidi institutions does not indicate the educational aims at these institutions contradict the Government Education Law. The demand for the independence of chareidi education is based on fears the powers in the hands of the mostly secular government in the State of Israel would be taken advantage of to bring about negative, compulsory interference in curriculum at chareidi institutes of learning in a manner not suited to the chareidi way of life."

In its petition the City claims if the court had reached the conclusion chareidi education in Beitar Illit fulfills only some of the aims of the Government Education Law that would already be sufficient grounds not to exclude schools from the hot lunch program "for even then switching to an extended school day would deepen knowledge and education." Therefore, the petition argues, the extended-day program should apply to all of the educational institutions in the city, and accordingly the hot lunch program should apply as well.

The City claims Judge Cheshin maligned the chareidi education system by finding fault in the education provided at the city's chareidi schools. "The court did not look into the curriculum, holding no discussion on the body of the claim. Neither did the State claim that the educational institutions do not fulfill these aims. Determining that a given sector does not educate [children] toward the goals of government education—basic aims held in consensus in Israeli society— without performing a proper inquiry is a serious determination with broad implications."

In the petition Attorney Rotem attacks the court for this sweeping determination, writing that the court cannot make such a claim without stating what value it believes the schools do not fulfill and towards which they do not educate students. "Could it be that such a grave determination comes forth from the High Court with the stroke of a pen without providing the petitioner or the chareidi public in general the opportunity to demonstrate this is not the case?" reads the petition.

The City also demands an additional, expanded hearing be held on the question of the distinction Judge Cheshin drew several years ago between chareidi and government educational institutions regarding budgeting and the issue of applying the hot lunch program at chareidi institutions. "This decision," the City claims, "creates distortion and discrimination among citizens in the State of Israel in such a basic, vital and elementary matter, which is actually a matter in the realm of welfare and assistance no less than a matter of education: providing food for children, including hungry children. Beyond a doubt this justifies departing from the past precedent and subjecting this issue to a reassessment."

In the new petition, the City of Beitar confronts Judge Cheshin's pronouncement two weeks ago that chareidi parents who would like their children to receive a hot lunch should send them to government schools. This remark, writes Attorney Rotem, "ignores the reality in Israel and in the Jewish world as a whole, and in a certain respect constitutes an act of `mocking the poor.' For parents of children in Beitar Illit placing children in government schools is tantamount to educating their children in a manner that stands in contradiction to their way of life and beliefs . . . This is a sector to which sending their child to the government education system and exposing him or her to the curriculum there stands in contradiction to its beliefs and religious worldview. The State or Israeli society cannot expect people to send their children to receive education at educational institutions liable to be in opposition to their way of life. These parents do not have a real possibility of sending their children to government schools as they exist today without foregoing their beliefs and educational needs. Under such circumstances denying their right to benefit from the hot lunch program constitutes unacceptable discrimination in light of the children's and parents' beliefs and way of life."

In conclusion the City of Beitar stresses the High Court's rejection of the possibility of funding the hot lunch program for all of the city's institutions "as if schools in Beitar Illit do not educate toward the aims of government education, constitutes a serious affront to a whole segment of the population . . . which has not been given the opportunity to prove its claims, [and] justifies granting the request to hold an additional hearing."


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