With two weeks to go before the start of the new school year, some 100 girls in the country's largest ultra-Orthodox enclaves still have not been accepted to any high school. Most of the girls are of Sephardi origin."I am writing to you as the person responsible for placing pupils in your city, asking that you immediately act to place the many pupils who have not been accepted to Haredi secondary schools," Shoshani wrote. "The complaints we heard after the registration period closed were that many pupils were not placed due to alleged discrimination, particularly relating to ethnicity, and that the schools don't have transparent procedures for placing girls."
The cities of Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Modi'in Ilit and Betar Ilit have not complied with a demand made by the Education Ministry's director general, Shimshon Shoshani, who earlier in the summer wrote to the mayors and city managers of all four cities, ordering them to submit their full list of high school placements by the end of July.
Shoshani called on local officials to set up placement committees, headed by the director of the local education department and comprised of two Torah figures (one Ashkenazi, one Sephardi ), a truant officer and a ministry inspector.
"Due to the late date, I want to get a placement list of all the girls in your city by Thursday, July 28," he wrote.
Now, three weeks after that deadline has passed, no lists have been submitted, and an estimated 100 girls are still without a high school. Some of the cities did not even set up the placement committees requested by Shoshani.
Attorney Yoav Lalum, head of the Noar Kehalakha organization - which initiated court action last year against what it claimed was ethnic discrimination in Immanuel - condemned the cities for not following ministry orders. He also chastised the ministry for not going far enough.
"The Education Ministry and the high schools would prefer that we busy ourselves with the issue of which girls did or did not get accepted, and not with the real problem: the quotas set for Sephardim in the girls' high schools," Lalum said. "It's too bad that the Education Ministry keeps missing the point again and again."
Sources say the leading Haredi high schools set the quota for accepting Sephardi girls at 30%.
Soon after Shoshani sent his letter, the leading Ashkenazi Haredi rabbinical arbiter, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, called the principals of the Haredi high schools to a meeting and told them not to cooperate with the placement committee initiative.
"We must fight this decree," he was quoted as saying.