Israeli police are on alert ahead of protests by ultra-Orthodox Jews of a court order jailing parents who refuse to let their daughters study alongside Jewish girls of Middle Eastern descent. Late on Wednesday, officers used water cannon to disperse about 200 Orthodox Jews who protested in Jerusalem by throwing stones at police and disrupting traffic, a police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. Up to 10,000 police officers had been mobilised ahead of the demonstrations today by supporters of the parents, from the strictly-observant Slonim Hassidic sect of Ashkenazi Jewry, public radio reported.
Police chief Dudi Cohen had put his forces on a high state of alert, only one step below the maximum level, the report said. The parents intend to present themselves at police stations for processing today before being taken to jail for contempt of court. Israel's supreme court had given them until today to send their children back to school or face jail, in a case involving about 40 Slonim Hassidic couples, whose roots are in eastern and central Europe.
The parents, who live in the West Bank settlement of Immanuel, are refusing to let their daughters study at the Beit Yaakov girls' school alongside girls of Sephardi origin, originating from North Africa or Asia. One Israeli newspaper likened the case to America's use of troops to enforce desegregation in the 1950s. "Our forces have started deploying in Jerusalem and the town of Bnei Brak (near Tel Aviv) where two major demonstrations organised by Orthodox Jews are due to take place," Mr Rosenfeld said.