My teacher Rabbi Donniel Hartman writes:
It is time to end the ludicrous reality in which the State of Israel funds education that undermines its existence, accepts the use of its funds to implement policies it abhors and which violate its core principles and interests. It is time to end the policy in which the State funds programs beyond its means and perpetuates an unemployable class that threatens the future of the State socially and economically.If you have not yet read Thursday's The New York Times article about these events follow this link. To summarize, Israel's Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for a school receiving public funds to separate Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews. The Ashkenazi leaders argued that the Sephardic rulings were not exacting enough and did not want their children to be influenced by the Sephardic students. Sephardic families were by the way permitted to join the Ashkenazi side of the room, on the other side of the divider. Israel's Court even referred to the United States' famous Brown v. Board of Education opinion. The protesters came out to support those ultra-Orthodox Jews we were held in contempt of court when they refused to abide by the court's opinion. Let us hope that this opinion leads to an untangling of state funding for Hasidic education where students are trained to spend a lifetime of yeshiva learning never serving in the IDF or aspiring to gainful employment where they would contribute income tax dollars and give back to Israeli society in a tangible way. Torah learning was never meant to be sustained by a welfare state. The great medieval commentator, Rashi, argued that it is better to flay carcasses in the market (I am not sure what that it is, but it sounds like a really bad job) than be dependent on tzedakah.
However, the public must also recognize and concede that no fault lies with the ultra-Orthodox. They have not stolen State resources but were legally allocated them. They are not to blame for wanting the State to fund a perpetual 19th century Polish ghetto. We are to blame for perpetuating the myth that we can and are willing to do so. Only when we recognize our responsibility will we avoid future standoffs between the Supreme Court and the mothers.
Addendum. For more on the same issue, read this Jerusalem Post Blog about separate seating for men and women on Jerusalem buses whose routes travel through ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.