Orthodox Jews Protest Integration of Girls School in West Bank: News Roundup

It’s the Israeli, religious version of Brown vs. Board of Ed and it’s causing as much tension and potential for change as the original did. Tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews took to the streets in Jerusalem to protest a Supreme Court decision to jail parents who refused to comply with an order to desegregate a religious girls’ school.

The state-funded Beit Yaakov girls school in the ultra-Orthodox West Bank settlement of Emanuel enrolls all students but segregates them based on whether they are of Ashkenazi (European) or Sephardic (Middle Eastern/Mediterranean/North African) descent. The Ashkenazi parents in the neighborhood said they followed stricter practices and therefore the school should have a separate Hasidic track. The school put up a wall in the building and divided the playground with a fence so that there was no inter-mixing.
 
A Sephardic activist brought the case to the Israeli Supreme Court which ruled it ethnic segregation and mandated integration of the girls. Hasidic parents refused to send their children to school and were accused of contempt of the court – they’re now headed to jail unless they agree to integration.
 
Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews came out to protest the “state’s meddling in their religious affairs.” This is just the latest tension between Orthodox Jews and secular Israelis.
 
It’s a complex issue that goes far beyond the school and we’ll continue watching the story as it unfolds.
 
In other news:
 
Burqa banning has made its way to Spain. Barcelona will ban the face-covering veils in all municipal buildings and claims the act is symbolic since there are not many niqab-clad women in the city.
 
And as another country moves forward in banning burqas, Muslim states are pushing the United Nations to investigate western countries and root out “Islamophobia” and discrimination against Muslims. Delegates have drafted new guidelines for the UN’s freedom-of-religion investigator and if passed, Western countries will likely face pressure to prevent criticism of Islam regardless of freedom-of-speech protections.
 
The Oak Tree Inn in Yuma, Arizona settled a religious discrimination suit with the EEOC after it forced employees to partake in religious ceremonies and threatened to reduce their work hours. They’ll pay the settlement to 12 employees who said “they suffered as a result of the hostile work environment” (Yuma Sun reports).
 
And a few more stories to check out:
 
Secularists spreading the word     Chicago Tribune