The Jerusalem District Court has postponed what could be a landmark ruling on the state’s obligation to provide all citizens with a modern education.
Thirty-three former members of the strictly-Orthodox community say that their applications for university places and jobs have been damaged by their education in schools that do not teach “core subjects” of mathematics, Hebrew, English and sciences. The case was dismissed as the statute of limitations has passed, but it will almost certainly find its way ultimately to the Supreme Court.
Israel is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that every child “should be fully prepared to live an individual life in society”. In addition, the government, worried about low productivity and employment within the Charedi community, has been trying for years to convince more strictly-Orthodox schools to teach the “core subjects”, in the hope of improving their future vocational skills.
However, the political power of the Charedi parties United Torah Judaism and Shas, which are vital components of the current coalition, has stymied these plans and government funding has continued, despite the rabbis' refusal to adapt the schools’ curriculum.
The claim brought by 42 graduates of Charedi schools could create a legal precedent, holding the government responsible for the education of all Israeli children. The state’s position is that it provides various types of schools and that it is the parents’ responsibility to choose.
The state attorneys also argued in court that a majority of the claimants are not eligible under the statute of limitations as more than seven years have passed since they left school. The claimants argued that the seven years should be counted from when they applied to university but the court on Thursday accepted the government’s argument, meaning that 33 claimants who are over 33 have had to relinquish their case.
Nine claimants remain but the court's prior ruling doesn’t bode well for them either. It is unlikely that a district court will make a ruling with widespread implications for the entire political system.
A similar case is also heading to the courts in Quebec, Canada, where two former Hasidic Jews claim they were "abandoned" by the government in illegal schools, which they left without obtaining elementary or secondary school diplomas.