A group of Israeli professors has petitioned the country’s Supreme Court to end government funding for single-sex colleges catering to ḥaredi students. Meanwhile, ultra-Orthodox parties have put forth legislation to protect these colleges. Thanks in no small part to such institutions, there has been a steep rise in the number of ḥaredi men and women in Israel obtaining secular higher education and joining the workforce, a trend that brings significant benefits to both the ḥaredi community and Israeli society as a whole. David M. Weinberg writes:
Over the past seven years, the Israeli government wisely has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in higher-education opportunities for ḥaredi men and women—and this is working. The number of ḥaredi students in college has jumped by more than 80 percent over this period, to 11,000 each year. And the number of ḥaredi men in the workforce has risen from 40 to 50 percent over the past decade. . . . In parallel, there seems to be an increasing majority sentiment within Israeli ḥaredi society that embraces higher education and superior employment. Surveys suggest that more than 80 percent of ḥaredi parents want their high schools to teach secular subjects alongside religious ones. . . .
It is indisputable that the overwhelming majority of Ḥaredim will not go to study in mixed-sex classrooms and mixed-sex campuses. That is too far a stretch for the very conservative and still quite insular ḥaredi society, which has a hard enough time engaging in secular studies in the first place. Thus, the militant axing of separate-sex programs would lead to the exclusion of most ḥaredi men and women from institutions of higher studies. This would kill the slow but measurable and exciting movement of Ḥaredim into the workforce that is crucial for Israel’s economy and society. . . .
I strongly suspect that the aggressive opposition to single-sex study programs for ḥaredi students stems from a deeper, darker, illiberal place. The professors and journalists behind this are, I think, frightened by the prospect of ḥaredi integration into Israeli life and the economy. Of course, this is what they have demanded for decades—that the ḥaredi community get educated and go to work (and serve in the military)—but now that it is beginning to happen, they have changed their minds.