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End in sight for religious staff veto

ISRAEL

Israeli education minister Amnon Rubinstein has said he intends to change the law that allows state religious schools to bar non-observant teachers, if he keeps his job after the general election on May 29.

In a much-publicised case, reported by The TES last autumn, a teacher at a religious kindergarten in the northern town of Nahariyya was removed from her duties because she had signed up her child for a secular school.

At present, all applicants for state religious-sector teaching jobs sign an agreement saying they identify with the goals of religious education and will send their own children to religious schools.

Professor Rubinstein, whose secular, left-wing Meretz party is senior partner in the current Labour-led coalition, told The TES last week: "I do not think the law that gives state religious schools veto power over teaching staff is justified. It's strange that religious Zionist people and parties who empathise with the unity of Israel should insist on such a wall of separation. I think this requirement should be limited to teachers of religious studies. Why should a teacher of maths, physics or PE be barred from entering a religious school?" If re-appointed, he would continue his reform of Jewish studies to encourage a more pluralist approach and would push for voluntary schemes aimed at bringing together religious and secular youngsters. But he pledged not to force integration on to religious schools, saying parents had a right to religious education for their children.

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