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The supreme court passed the decision on Monday night, legalising separate classes for men and women, already a years-old practice in universities catering to the ultra-Orthodox or Haredim (the God-fearing), as they are called in Hebrew.

However, the court said universities cannot bar female instructors from teaching all-male classes.

The Haredim represent about 12 per cent of Israel’s nine-million population, a figure expected to rise to 20 per cent by 2040 because of high birth rates among the religious community.

Many Haredi men study in state-subsidised religious institutions called yeshivot rather than work.

Malach said the insertion of the community into the workforce through higher education was “essential” for Israel’s economic future.

Ultra-Orthodox women and some men are exempt from compulsory military service in Israel, as are Israeli Arabs.

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