February 1, 2010
Members of ProZion got this letter from Anat Hoffman.
Dear Friends of IRAC,
One of the first Hebrew words immigrants to Israel learn is savlanut - patience. They'll need it; it's a word they won't easily forget. But it will take them some time longer to understand its root, sevel, as the source of all Hebrew words for suffering.
I've always liked the direct connection Hebrew makes between patience and suffering, and have grown especially fond of it over my years here at IRAC, where so much of our work is an exercise in patient suffering. We've had Reform conversion cases that have dragged on for eight years, and campaigns against religious councils that have lasted almost two decades. So often we find ourselves in opposition to the State. We send you stories about suing the government, or petitioning the Supreme Court against the government for the umpteenth time - which is why it's heartening to report that recently the office of the Attorney General has joined our side. In a petition of ours against the Jerusalem Municipality's decision to provide full and exclusive funding for Haredi schools, the Attorney General has joined IRAC in arguing that such funding is illegal in its blatant discrimination and disregard for other schools in Jerusalem.
Especially troubling is the automatic preference for Haredi schools at the expense of all others in Jerusalem. According to Tali Aviv, a member of IRAC's very capable legal team, the best illustration of the Jerusalem Municipality's discriminatory allocation of educational funds can be found in East Jerusalem, where public schools are overcrowded, and many children are forced to attend private schools for lack of any other option. These schools aren't given any additional funds at all, so it would seem logical to provide these private schools with money rather than give it exclusively to Haredi ones. But this is a classic example of how the Jerusalem Municipality works: it caters to Haredi political power, and to their coalition within the municipality.
Today IRAC submits a written summation of our arguments to the Court, and then in two weeks' time the Jerusalem Municipality and Haredi networks will present their own before the Court can reach a verdict. “It will be an important moment,” Tali says, “because municipalities across Israel look to the Jerusalem District Court for guidance in handling similar cases of their own.”
And it's quite clear that discriminatory funding, especially when it comes to Haredi communities, is a relevant and prevalent issue that won't go away any time soon.We hope the addition of the Attorney General's name to our petition will strengthen our case and draw attention to the issue at hand. And we want the case decided this year, not a decade hence.