'The situation in the field of education in east Jerusalem is horrific and the neglect is criminal," says Rabbi Michael Melchior, the head of the Knesset Education Committee, who had also compared the state of the education system in east Jerusalem to a "national disaster." After the joint efforts of the Coalition for the Advancement of Education in East Jerusalem, the situation was discussed last Wednesday at a special meeting of the education committee, headed by Melchior. The coalition incorporates the non-profit organization Ir Amim, the east Jerusalem PTA, the organization for civil rights in Israel and other organizations and individuals concerned with the education crisis in east Jerusalem. Numerous urgent issues, such as lack of schools, classrooms and buildings, were discussed at the meeting. A special focus was placed on the problem of non-registration of children to municipal schools in east Jerusalem and the alarming increase in the drop-out rate (the latest figures show that the drop-out rate is almost 50%). After carefully studying the materials presented by the coalition, the committee decided to call for the creation of an inter-office committee, which will include senior officials, to handle the issue in a comprehensive way. The committee will also appeal to the ministers of education, defense and finance to find an adequate solution for the students who cannot get into Jerusalem or have difficulties getting to school due to the checkpoints and separation barrier. Sarah Kreimer, the associate director of Ir Amim, believes that making the public aware of the matter is a victory in itself: "It's important that the members of the committee realize the depth and breadth of the problem, because only then will something start moving. In any case, the solution will not be a simplistic one, since the problem is very complex. At the same time we are working to bring this matter to the attention of the decision-makers on the legal level. We are also trying to involve the Palestinian population in the process: they need to understand their rights and stand up for them." Kreimer says that the discussion of the situation in east Jerusalem is just a beginning and every decision needs to be followed up, but at the same time, "this is an excellent push. I truly believe that the members of the committee decided to act not for the sake of their political aspirations, but because they are indeed concerned by the alarming situation in the field of education in East Jerusalem."

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