A haredi kindergarten in a Jerusalem neighborhood which has been without
permanent premises since the beginning of the academic year is continuing to
cause communal and political problems within the city.
kindergarten girls from the haredi Beit Yaakov network have been assigned a
building which is already the home of another kindergarten for 34 girls,
including nine with behavioral and learning difficulties.
For eight days
at the beginning of the school year, the kindergarten was held outdoors, and
chairs for the young girls only arrived Tuesday morning at the temporary
facilities currently being used.
According to Naftali Lorentz, chairman
of the haredi Community Administration of Ramot, requests were made three months
before the first day of term on August 25 for premises to be made available. The
temporary premises are not large enough for the number of children enrolled in
the kindergarten, according to municipal regulations, Lorentz claims.
community administration has been seeking to gain access to a building used by a
Scouts group but designated as a kindergarten.
However, the secular
Community Administration of Ramot has said it will not sanction the use of the
Scouts building, although it is not in permanent use and not used during
According to Lorentz, the municipality has
recommended that the kindergarten rent a suitable apartment in the neighborhood
– but appropriate apartments, which need to be on the ground floor with a
private entrance and a courtyard, are unavailable.
The estimated cost of
such premises would be approximately NIS 16,000 a month which the would be paid
for by the Jerusalem Municipality, while the Scout premises are owned by the
municipality itself and would therefore not require additional
Another solution offered by the municipality would be to
erect a mobile classroom in the courtyard of the temporary premises, to provide
for the nine children with learning difficulties. However, Lorentz says that
this would mean using half of an already small courtyard for such a structure,
and that doing so would make the yard too small to comply with
But chairman of the secular Ramot Communal Administration
Ze’ev Landner accused the haredi communal leadership of seeking to create a
provocation in the neighborhood and extort concessions from the municipality by
using images of children learning without a roof over their head.
noted that since the kindergarten is privately run, the communal administration
and the municipality are not obligated to find a solution, a position repeated
by the Jerusalem Municipality. Lorentz denied this claim, saying that the
kindergarten is registered with the Jerusalem Municipality’s Education
Department and that the appropriate fees have been paid.
Nir Barkat has so far not intervened.
Communal tensions between the
haredi and secular communities in Ramot run high, and political concerns are
suspected to be one of the main reasons the building used by the Scouts has not,
for the moment, been made available for use by the haredi
Barkat is facing a serious challenge in the mayoral
elections scheduled for the end of October and is loathe to alienate potential
voters. Lorentz said that the problem may be easier to solve once the elections
He said, however, that “Kindergarten girls should not be the
victims of political games.”
The issue has stirred indignation from
haredi members of the Jerusalem Municipality, with council member and Deputy
Mayor Yitzhak Pindrus – responsible for haredi education in Jerusalem – saying
fiercely that “Barkat should stop using children in Jerusalem for the benefit of
his election campaign.”
The Jerusalem Municipality said in response to
the issue that it was working to find a solution.
“Responsibility for a
solution for the activities of kindergartens lies with the network’s
administrators. Despite this, the Jerusalem Municipality is working with
responsibility and commitment to all of the neighborhood’s children and the
administration of the [kindergarten] network is addressing [the need] for
suitable premises. In the immediate term, [the solution is to continue using]
the place where they are currently operating, and in the long-term [to continue]
in large and appropriate premises the rent for which is paid and which will
shortly be fitting for the children’s’ activities.”