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Israel high court overturns jail sentence of ultra-Orthodox Jews for segregation

The Israeli Supreme Court [official website] on Tuesday overturned jail sentences for 13 ultra-Orthodox Jewish mothers charged with contempt for disobeying a court order on school integration in the West Bank settlement of Immanuel. The court delayed jail sentences for an additional nine mothers [Haaretz report] in order to allow the women to care for their families while their husbands remain jailed on similar charges. The women, who belong to a strictly observant Ashkenazi sect, were sentenced last week to two weeks in jail for refusing to reintegrate their daughters into a school with Jewish Sephardi [JVL backgrounders] girls. The women claimed that the Sephardi girls, who are of Middle Eastern or North African origin, were not observant enough and would be a bad influence on their daughters. Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews staged a rally last week in Jerusalem's city center to protest the ruling. Thirty-five men turned themselves over to the police [BBC report] during the protest in order to begin serving their jail sentences, but the women were given a stay of reprieve until the court could determine whether to delay their sentences.

Approximately 120,000 Askenazi Jews rallied in Jerusalem after the original ruling on reintegration at Beit Yaakov girls' school. The protest was the biggest demonstration by the ultra-Orthodox community in over two decades. Before the Supreme Court administered its ruling last week, a mother that was convicted told reporters that the court had no right to rule on the dispute because parents had simply carried out orders from their rabbis, who had a higher jurisdiction.

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