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Segregation on campus: a carrot to get more students to attend universities

TJI Pick
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Published: 22 November 2019

Last updated: 4 March 2024

EETTA PRINCE-GIBSON: Gender segregation comes to Israel's publicly funded universities

SINCE THE FOUNDING of Israel’s Bar-Ilan University in 1955, all kinds of students—male and female, Orthodox and secular, Israeli and Palestinian—have studied side by side. Today, however, the publicly funded research university, the country’s second largest, has reserved a set of buildings on the edge of campus for gender-segregated classes.

There, ultra-Orthodox men—most dressed in white shirts and black pants with tzitzit hanging over their belts and their heads covered by fedora-like black hats or large kippot—sit in classrooms, paying careful attention to the lecturer, who is always a man.

But what may look like an ultra-Orthodox yeshiva is in fact a class leading to an undergraduate degree in a subject such as management or economics.

In Hebrew slang, these classes are called sterili (“sterile”)—without women as either classmates or teachers—and are considered “safe” for ultra-Orthodox men whose rabbis forbid them from studying with or learning from women.

As a result, ultra-Orthodox women study separately—for degrees in education or a similar field—in another building. Unlike their male counterparts, they can be taught by both females and males.

Bar-Ilan, located outside of Tel Aviv in Ramat Gan, is one of approximately a dozen publicly funded colleges and universities that have over the past few years introduced gender-segregated classes in an effort to draw the ultra-Orthodox into higher education.

FULL STORY The new Mechitza (Moment)

Illustration: Tablet

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