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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Israeli court rules teen can’t be forced to go to yeshiva

The Haifa District Court overturned a Magistrate's Court ruling that forced a 16-year-old boy to study in a yeshiva as his father demanded, against his will. The court accepted the youth's appeal and ordered that he be allowed to register at a technical school of his choice.

The youth's parents are separated. Both are religious, and the mother supported her son's wish. The District Court criticized the Magistrate's Court for not calling the youth to the witness stand or requesting to hear his opinion, and for ignoring the report of a social worker that supported the boy’s stance. 

The mother told the court that the standard of studies in the yeshiva was very low, that it does not prepare students properly for the matriculation exams, and that many students have left the yeshiva. The judges, Shoshana Stemer, Adi Zarnakin and Rivka Lemelshtrich summoned the youth to their chambers and heard his opinion. The youth was represented by attorney Efrat Venkart of the Justice Ministry department of legal aid.

In their ruling the judges quoted Polish educator Janusz Korczak: "Under identical clothes beat a hundred different hearts, and each one is another difficulty, another task, another worry and care … not a small world, but an entire world, not young, but exalted, not naïve, but human and moral, with advantages, drawbacks, tendencies, wishes." The judges further based their ruling on clause 12 of the United Nations' charter dealing with children's rights, including the basic principle that a child should be allowed to express his opinion freely, and that this opinion should be considered. 

Furthermore, the panel said, the rights of children to freedom of thought, conscience and religious belief should be respected.

The judges added that in two years the youth would be "old enough to fight and protect us all. One cannot simply ignore his wishes only because of the father's fear that secular society would corrupt his son."

The process began several months ago after the youth turned to the Israel National Council for the Child, requesting assistance in his struggle to study where he wishes. The council referred the boy to the Justice Ministry’s legal aid department in Haifa, which appointed legal representation and submitted the first appeal.

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