Middle East
Orthodox fathers freed in Israel
Court orders release of those jailed in row over school integration.
Last Modified: 27 Jun 2010 17:11 GMT
Around 100,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews protested against the imprisonment of the fathers [AFP] 

Israel's Supreme Court has ordered the immediate release of 35 ultra-Orthodox Jewish fathers jailed for disobeying a court order on school integration.

The ruling on came after the intervention of leading Jewish rabbis, who managed to reach a compromise over mixing Jewish children of Ashkenazi - European -  descent with others whose families have roots in the Middle East, known as  Sephardis, at a girls' school in a West Bank settlement.

The fathers, from the small and close-knit Slonim Hassidic sect within the broader Ashkenazi community, turned themselves in to police on June 17. They were jailed for contempt of court after ignoring an earlier court order to integrate the Sephardi girls.

Under the pact, Judge Edmond Levy wrote, the girls would hold a series of joint workshops at the school, attended by rabbis from both communities, "in order to move them closer in their hearts".

The workshops are to be held over the next three days, after which the school breaks for the long summer holiday.

Israeli army radio said that when classes resume in autumn a privately-funded school outside the state education system would cater to the Slonim girls.

The fathers' imprisonment was marked by a rally of around 100,000 angry ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem, their largest demonstration in 10 years.

The parents say their stance is not based on racism or ethnicity, but is about differences in religious observance between the Ashkenazi and Sephardi traditions. 

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