University of Detroit Mercy Law Review ,Vol. 83, No. 5, pp. 679-728 (2006).


The area of religious education in the State of Israel is one of the most complex issues, possibly without comparison to other modern countries. The reason for this complexity is complex in itself. It has religious, national, historical and economical backgrounds and above all political grounds that account for it.

The value of education is highly regarded in Jewish tradition. Jewish communities were the first to introduce compulsory education for which the organized community, not less than the parents, was responsible. The rift within Jewish society, starting with the Renaissance and Enlightenment and continuing with Zionism, circled to a large extent around the issue of education. Segments of the Jewish people that were attracted by the Enlightenment Movement changed the curriculum at school. So did the segments that followed Zionism. The Orthodox circles, feeling threatened by these new trends, closed themselves off from the outer world and clung to the traditional teachings. They, moreover, kept their children from being influenced by the outside world.

As the State of Israel was established a struggle between the melting pot policy, advocating educational uniformity, and the demand for religious autonomy in the area of education broke out. It ended with a salient triumph of the latter. Israel’s educational system appears as a convincing example of educational autonomy, particularly religious autonomy, and as a model of multicultural education. The education system in the State of Israel includes various school streams, among them several religious chains. These chains include State schools, independent schools and private ultra-Orthodox schools. All of them are supported by State budget yet they do not adhere to the curriculum prescribed by the Ministry of Education. Continuous struggles go on regarding the teaching of "secular" subjects and the inspection over the schools.

The author's argument is that by abstaining from enforcing a basic curriculum on these schools, the State is infringing its duties towards their students, both under municipal law and under international conventional law.


Education Law | Legal History, Theory and Process | Public Law and Legal Theory | Religion Law

Date of this Version

July 2007