There were four generations present at the Chabad religious state school in Jerusalem’s Ir Ganim neighborhood on Thursday morning, when the school’s director Rabbi Shimon Yadgar welcomed President Shimon Peres and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat who had come to greet first-graders on their first day at school.

Quoting the late Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson, whose portrait loomed large on the wall, Yadgar told the youngsters that they were getting the Rebbe’s blessing of love, faith, understanding, love of God, love of humanity and love of country.

Barkat, who is very familiar with the Ir Ganim School, said that people want to be associated with this particular school because of its special spirit, the love that teachers put into their work and the quality of the education.

Peres based his address on the 10 Commandments and asked the first-graders which of them had heard of the 10 Commandments and then who could recite them off by heart. The small, sole volunteer became microphone shy and ran back to the group.

Peres told them that if they behaved in accordance with the 10 Commandments they would grow up to become decent human beings. He also emphasized the importance of learning.

“People who don’t learn can’t progress,” he said, adding that the world is full of Torah and knowledge just waiting for people who want to learn.

Barkat continued to schools and kindergartens in other Jerusalem neighborhoods including a beautiful new kindergarten and a new school in Givat Mordechai; a complex of kindergartens and a new school in Homat Shmuel which is a satellite of Har Homa; and an overcrowded haredi girls’ school in Romema which desperately needs to expand its premises but is encountering strong opposition from neighbors whose daughters have studied there or who are current students.

The new elementary school in Givat Mordechai is currently being housed at Machon Lev, The Jerusalem College of Technology, until another building in the neighborhood becomes vacant – which could be a long time down the road – and the school can move into another facility.

The first-graders, waving national flags and blue and white balloons, were lined up in two rows outside the Beren Institute of Torah and Science.

MK Zevulun Orlev, who played a significant role in the school’s establishment, praised Barkat and Manhi for taking the courageous step of supporting the establishment of a religious Zionist state school in Givat Mordechai. Religious Zionists, said Orlev, have made great contributions to the state and have a special affinity for Jerusalem.

The stronger that religious Zionism becomes within Jerusalem he declared, the closer it will be to the realization of Barkat’s dream of more young people and more young families settling in the capital.

Machon Lev President Prof. Noach Picard, said it was a privilege to host the new school especially as its first-graders will be the only ones who will ever be able to say that they were the firstgrade one at Machon Lev.

“This is the age at which education begins,” he said.

In order to make Jerusalem sufficiently attractive for people to not just want to visit but to want to live in the city, said Barkat, the reforms already introduced into schools have to be enhanced. Schools have to be adapted to the needs and desires of the communities in which they are located, he said. He was convinced that the new school at Givat Mordechai will be a catalyst for the growth of the neighborhood.

“Givat Mordechai is flourishing and this will help to bring more religious Zionists to Jerusalem,” he said.

At Hamat Shmuel, Barkat was joined by Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin, a native son of the city and a staunch advocate for Jerusalem.

Rivlin was there to affix the mezuza on the new religious state school, but also accompanied Barkat on the tour of the kindergartens.

While meeting with the young children, Rivlin attempted to explain the difference between a mayor and a Knesset speaker, saying the mayor has authority over close to a million people, whereas the Knesset speaker has authority over only 120 people “who make decisions but who sometimes make a lot of noise and shout at each other as well.”

Later at the inauguration ceremony of the new school, Rivlin told the firstgraders not to be afraid of learning because Peres, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, all the government ministers and members of Knesset had once been in grade one.

“They started to learn in order to reach their potential,” he said. “You don’t know yet what that means, but each of you represents a whole future.”

Barkat said that this was the fourth school built in the neighborhood on his watch.

“We will build more and we will continue to invest in education,” he pledged.

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