Over the past two decades a number of Israeli institutions of higher education have opened gender-segregated programs for the ultra-Orthodox, or haredim. The growth of these programs has generated an intense debate in Israel, reflected throughout Israeli media and in several appeals to Israel's Supreme Court. The issues raised concerning gender-segregated higher education reflect an overarching inquiry that is of great interest to multicultural theoreticians: the relationship of liberal democracies to their illiberal minorities. Multicultural theoreticians agree that healthy democracies must tolerate some illiberal practices while acknowledging that not every illiberal practice can be tolerated. In the case at hand, the essay addresses the question: can a liberal democracy tolerate gender-segregated higher education? Using work by Charles Taylor, Michael Walzer, Kwame Anthony Appiah, John Inazu, and others, the essay reviews the arguments for and against gender segregation in higher education for Israeli haredim. The essay explores the limits of toleration of illiberal cultures within liberal democratic societies and finds crucial the right to exit such a culture—a right whose viability is dependent upon adequate education. The essay concludes by discussing the multiculturalism organization development model and what has been termed the manyness and messiness of multiculturalism.
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