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Jailing of haredi mothers postponed

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Supreme Court has postponed its jailing of ultra-Orthodox mothers who defied a court order to send their daughters to an integrated Ashkenazi-Sephardic school.

The court on Sunday afternoon said it would hold hearings on Tuesday to decide what to do about 22 mothers who violated the court’s ruling when they failed to show up to a Jerusalem prison last Thursday to begin two-week sentences. The ruling also applies to one of the fathers who did not report to prison because his wife gave birth last week. Attorneys for the women have submitted claims that some are pregnant, breastfeeding or have many children and therefore should not be incarcerated, according to Ynet.

"The parents were well aware of the decision that was made, and despite the many opportunities they were given to obey it without coercion they tried in different ways to thwart it," Justices Edmund Levy, Edna Arbel, and Hanan Meltzer wrote of the mothers on Sunday.

Last Friday, Israel’s attorney general directed authorities to hold off on jailing the girls’ mothers, endorsing the position of welfare agencies who had argued that sending both parents to prison would be bad for the families. The 43 families have 250 children among them.

Two ultra-Orthodox, or haredi, rabbis met with President Shimon Peres last week to try to find a compromise to avoid the prison terms, the Jerusalem Post reported. Last Friday, the Sephardic parents that initially petitioned the court to forcibly integrate the religious girls’ school, located in the West Bank settlement of Emanuel, requested that the Supreme Court let the Ashkenazi fathers out of jail, the Post reported. Before the court order, the school had run separate tracks for Sephardic and Ashkenazi girls.

“Incarceration is not an effective way to enforce the Supreme Court’s decision in this matter,” the petition from the Sephardic parents said.

Also on Sunday, Israel’s Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush of the haredi United Torah Judaism party moved his office to a protest tent outside the Jerusalem prison where the fathers are being held.

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