Criminal Indictments Against 35 Parents

The Gush Etzion Council filed criminal charges against parents who sent their children to Talmud Torah

The Gush Etzion Council filed criminal indictments against 35 parents who sent their children to private Torah Talmud in Bat Ayin instead of the Council's recognized institutions. Among the defendants is the journalist Zvi Yehezkeli. The council: "the association did not cooperate with us"

Indictments against the parents (Photo: Idan Dahan)

The Gush Etzion Council filed indictments against 35 pairs of parents who sent their children to private Talmud, on the suspicion that they violated the compulsory education law. Among the defendants is the journalist Zvi Yehezkeli. For some parents, the criminal indictment could result in their dismissal. The parents are furious with the head of the council, Shlomo Ne'eman, who promised to regulate the school and in the end sued them with criminal charges.

Six years ago, parents in the settlement of Bat Ayin B established a Torah Talmud called "Nachmat Moshe" as a more Torah alternative to the existing educational institutions in Gush Etzion. The emphasis in the Talmud Torah is education without screens both at school and at home, and the addition of holy hours. The institution worked independently, the parents were the ones who financed the school, the building, the teachers, and all the related expenses.

Over the years "Nachmat Moshe" merged with another Torah Talmud from the settlement of Efrat and even children from Bat Ayin A started to study in the institute. However, the council did not look favorably on the Talmud Torah and began, to narrow its steps and refused to help parents get a regulated institution symbol.

The council enrolled the children in other institutions against the parents' opinion

At the same time as the refusal, the council registered the Talmud Torah children, without their parents' permission, in institutions recognized by it. Orly Grant, a mother of three children in the Talmud Torah says, "I would call the schools and tell them that my children's registration is not my opinion or my intention, my children study at another institution, I encountered a refusal to delete them from the list of children, there is a compulsion by the council to put us into institutions that we are not interested in ".

"Ne'eman promised to settle but in practice did nothing"

Over the years, the parents asked the head of the Gush Etzion Council, Shlomo Ne'eman, to help them regulate the institution. According to Idan Dahan, the parents' spokesperson, "Ne'eman promised that he would regulate the institution, but in practice he did nothing. We begged them to come sit with us, to listen to us, and that we would start the regulation operations together with them, but in the council, they refused to meet with the management of the Talmud Torah."

Chairman of the Gush Etzion Council Shlomo Ne'eman (Photo by Yonatan Zindel, Flash90.)

In the meantime, time passed, the institution was not settled, and the parents began to receive inquiries from the council's office claiming that their children were not coming to school as required by law. Dahan claims that the council began harassing them, "They would send police to the classrooms, bring a social worker in the middle of the day without warning. It was a very invasive feeling."

Criminal charges against the parents

But the peak is yet to come, About a year ago the Ministry of Education noticed a scam in which students who did not study in the registered educational institutions were registered. The council placed the responsibility on the parents who did not send their children to school and as a result, sued 35 pairs of parents and filed criminal indictments under the pretext that they were violating sections 2 and 4 of the Compulsory Education Law.

Grant describes with shock, "The council caused so many parents to have to come to criminal hearings and sit in them as the last of the criminals, there are many parents who work in jobs where the indictment could cloud their livelihood and cause them to be fired, we have been done a great injustice, all this so that the council will force us to go to the institutions under their auspices ".

The indictment against the parents

Journalist Zvi Yehezkeli was also indicted

Among the parents whose children are educated at the school is the journalist Zvi Yehezkeli, who said: "I have never been sued in Israeli courts, but in Arab countries. I really had a 'blessed person who was caught for the words of the Torah'. So I am very happy about this lawsuit and am also happy to publish it and tell about it . And I will also defend myself because what did we really want? Not as written in the indictment, but on the contrary we cared for our child and saw that there was no other suitable framework that existed and despite all the attempts of the council and everyone else to shut us down, the Torah Talmud is standing and succeeding."

"Cynical exploitation of the provisions of the law"

Dahan adds: "This is a cynical exploitation of the provisions of the law, they know that the children study in school, they know that the children come every day between eight and four for Talmud Torah and they claim that we did not send the children to study. If your claim that the children do not study is true, why did they agree to enroll the children? You murdered and also inherited?!".

The parents also point to an interesting phenomenon: only the parents of the students who live in the Gush Etzion Council received indictments. The other parents - residents of Beitar or Efrat - did not receive an indictment. "If the problem is the violation of the law, why is there no equality among the students who all apparently violate the law? Why does the council harass its residents? Is it a matter of budgets?", one of the parents wondered.

From a legal point of view, Idan claims, "There is no precedent in Israel for a parent who sends his child to school every day at eight in the morning, in an institution with a high-level curriculum, to receive an indictment for not sending him to the educational institutions. There is a selective enforcement here that was unprecedented in Israel."

Idan added, "I spent 200,000 NIS on my sons' education to teach them Torah, We did everything to build high-level Torah Talmud, including the core subjects, In the second grade we studied more hours than the eighth grade in the corresponding school in the council. Instead of helping us, they drag us into court costs and the severe consequences that the trial can cause."

Independent education in Israel is nothing new, parents open a new school with their initiative and money according to the way they believe and after five years or so receive an institution symbol and recognition from the Ministry of Education through the mediation of the council where the school operates.

In every settlement, there is a Talmud Torah that splits from the state-religious education and receives recognition

In almost every settlement in Judea and Samaria, there is a Talmud Torah that branches off from the local state-religious education and opens its own institution. To reach a settlement, the parents must meet certain deadlines for submitting the study programs, for proving safety standards, teacher standards, and other standards. Without the help of the regional councils, it is almost impossible to complete the arrangement. Most of the regional councils understand the area and respond to the new institutions.

At the "Nachmat Moshe" school, they waited for the council to help them reach the long-awaited regularization, but nothing was done and the submission date to the Ministry of Education has passed. For the request to reach the Exceptions Committee, the parents need the help of the council, which is currently busy suing them.

The hearings in the court concerning the parents will begin in the court in Kiryat Arba next week before the Honorable Judge Bialin Elazar.

The council's response: The association did not cooperate

The Gush Etzion Council responded: "The Gush Etzion Council is working to regulate the Torah Talmud 'Nachalat Moshe' in David's regions, but despite our repeated requests, the association has chosen, so far, not to submit a formal request to the Ministry of Education.

For several years, an institution has been operating in the David territories, which is not according to the law. Despite the attempts to negotiate, the council encountered a complete refusal to contact and settle with the law authorities. Only recently did several parents apply to regulate the legality of the school, following an order submitted by the district attorney who is in charge of enforcing the compulsory education law on behalf of the State of Israel.

About a month ago, it was made clear to the council that in the request of the Torah Talmud, there is no way to meet the required threshold conditions, to receive legal approval. In light of this fact, the Council turned to the Ministry of Education with a request to approve an unusual request, and the Ministry approved the submission of the request, intending to assist and examine the regulation of the place. At the forefront of the council's attention is the concern for the well-being of the students, such as compliance with adequate sanitary conditions, and insurance for students according to law as is customary in every organized educational institution in Israel.

In recent years, the council has worked with several groups of parents to regulate all the educational institutions in Gush Etzion and we have succeeded in all of them except Talmud Torah "Nachalat Moshe". But even in this case the council is determined to regulate the place. As mentioned, we are impatiently waiting for the operating association to take a necessary step and submit an orderly request to the Ministry of Education."

Sources in the council say that another meeting between Shlomo Ne'eman and the parents is expected to take place tomorrow, in the hope of resolving the crisis.


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