Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

24 Shevat 5768 - January 31, 2008 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Education Ministry Allows Students at Government Schools to Pray

By Eliezer Rauchberger

Any student attending a government school who elects to pray will be allowed to do so in the future, Education Ministry official Mr. Shmuel Gross told a meeting of the Knesset Education Committee convened to discuss the issue.

At an earlier meeting committee members were told that the administration of Ohel Shem, a government school in Ramat Gan, is unwilling to permit students to organize tefillos on the school grounds. Various places at adjacent facilities were proposed and at the end of the meeting it was decided that MKs Rabbi Moshe Gafni (UTJ) and Shlomo Benizri (Shas) would visit the school and assess the places suggested.

MK Benizri said he visited the campus and found the beis knesses that students who wanted to pray had been sent to is not close to the school. Another of the places suggested was closed and another place, where the students currently pray, has been closed off to them at least twice. "I can't understand what's wrong with letting children in the Jewish state pray," he said.

MK Gafni said when he visited the school he told the administration that the longer the students are prevented from praying the more they would want to. "If you think you can keep the students from praying, you are sorely mistaken," he said.

Mr. Gross, the Education Ministry's inspector for the Tel Aviv District, said that the Education Ministry's policy is to allow every student to pray, saying this is only feasible at a distance from the school. He said these guidelines are formulated by the director-general of the Education Ministry and the place would be a ten-minute walk away, adding that there would be a special break to accommodate the students during the time it takes to walk there, pray and walk back to the school.

Rabbi Gafni says he agrees with Gross' initial statement, but disputes his latter remarks. "Why can't they pray at the school?" he wonders.

Committee Chairman MK Michael Melchior (Labor) backed Rabbi Gafni's remarks, calling the Education Ministry's stance illogical. "At a school with 1,500 students where ten of them want to pray, why should the whole school come to a standstill for half an hour? I don't get it. This will make all of the other students resent them. Praying at the school is much more logical. Those who want to pray will pray and those who don't will use the time for other things."

Ramat Gan Mayor Tzvi Barr said he wants to work out a solution to the problem and asked for some time to look for places to pray at or near the school. The committee decided to grant his request.

The committee welcomed the Education Ministry's announcement it would allow any student who elects to pray to do so. Following a suggestion by Rabbi Gafni, the committee asked the director-general at the Education Ministry to issue a directive saying that whenever possible students should be allowed to pray on the school grounds, and only if this is not feasible an alternative location near the school should be arranged.


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