Breakaway class being taught by Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu
Breakaway class being taught by Rabbi Shmuel EliyahuNo credit

Four months after the Besheva magazine affiliated with Israel National News first broke the story of an eight-year-old "transgender" girl dressed as a boy learning in a state-religious school in Givat Shmuel, the saga is no nearer and possibly even further from resolution.

Last week, when students returned to school following the Hanukkah break, parents of the other children in the class opened a breakaway classroom outside the school grounds. Many had tried to transfer their children to other schools in the area when they became aware of what was going on; however, the municipality has placed innumerable obstacles in the way of parents wishing to make such a move.

The girl in question has apparently been learning in the school dressed as a boy for over three years, with the Education Ministry and senior officials within the state-religious system aware of the deception but parents and even teachers kept in the dark until Besheva's expose four months ago.

Senior rabbis within the Religious-Zionist movement are encouraging the parents in their decision to open an alternative class in order to protect their children, who, parents say, have suffered psychological harm from the situation. On the first day of the new class, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Tzfat, himself taught one class to the students; other senior rabbis such as Rabbi Yaakov Ariel and Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira have stated their intention to do so as well, stressing that this is a battle for the very soul of the state-religious education system.

The decision to open an alternative class was taken right before Hanukkah. Parents met via Zoom, a meeting which Rabbi Eliyahu attended. "You are the spearhead in this very important battle and we must all mobilize and stand behind you," he told them.

The parents of the breakaway class have now launched a fundraising campaign to support their teachers as well as pay for counseling for their children, and they intend to wage an extensive legal and media battle under the banner, "Our children, our education -- Stop the progressive coercion." They note that "this could happen in any school."

Sara (not her real name) is a mother of a child in the affected class. She told Israel National News that, "Unfortunately, the students are now dealing with many psychological issues, and one student is already taking psychiatric medication. The children have nightmares and one has started to wet his bed. The class was once a quiet, well-behaved class but now the students are acting out and even being violent at times. Children are asking all kinds of questions about this issue and they're worried that there may be other cases that they don't know about."

Sara stresses that contrary to some media reports, "We have nothing against the child concerned, and we feel very sorry for her. We respect everyone, no matter who they are. But we, as religious parents, chose to send our children to a state-religious school that educates them toward certain values, and we have a legitimate right to choose what to expose our children to, and to shield them from concepts that aren't compatible with our faith at this young age."

She describes the girl concerned as "dressed in a yarmulka with tzitzit, and she even sometimes leads the class prayers. We're talking about a class of eight-year-olds. Of course they were totally shocked to find out the truth. These are little kids not even old enough to cross the road by themselves. They're not capable of absorbing what's going on here."

Yehuda (not his real name) is a father of one of the students in the class. "Media reports are portraying us a primitive and narrow-minded. That couldn't be further from the truth. In our particular case, we're 'religious-lite' and my wife wears pants. But we sent our son to a religious school because of the values we wanted him to absorb. The state-religious system has to have red lines."

Responding to the opening of an alternative class outside the school premises, the Education Ministry (prior to the takeover by the new government) issued a statement: "The education system is required to provide educational solutions for all students in an inclusive and equality-based manner. The Ministry is vehemently opposed to any boycott or calls for a boycott which primarily harm the [male] student concerned. The Ministry will not sanction the opening of a class which does not follow Ministry guidelines."

The Ministry added that, "The issue is being dealt with professionally and with sensitivity by the head of the state-religious education system and the head of the local education authority. Due to privacy concerns, we cannot elaborate on this."

Meanwhile, the Chavruta organization has begun to raise funds on behalf of the family of the child concerned, to open a legal battle to ensure that what they say are the child's rights are recognized by the Education Ministry. They have suggested that at a later stage they may also consider suing the leaders of the struggle against them.

Their crowdfunding page shows a goal of 100 thousand shekels, with the statement: "Following gross defamation and serious breaches of privacy along with grave incitement, the family of the trans-boy [sic.] is launching a battle to protect him from harm and to protect his rights in the education system."