Police close e. J'lem kindergarten, say harboring Hamas

Najat kindergarten denies any ties to terrorists or politics, 60 kindergartners trying to find alternatives.

Masked Hamas terrorists 311 (R) (photo credit: Mohammed Salem / Reuters)
Masked Hamas terrorists 311 (R)
(photo credit: Mohammed Salem / Reuters)
A kindergarten in the Abu Tur neighborhood of east Jerusalemwas forced to close this week after police claimed the building of housingHamas terrorist activities, leaving more than 60 kindergarteners scrambling tofind alternatives for the school year.

The school was in the midst of registering new students onSunday when they received a signed order from Inspector-General Yochanan Daninoto close the building immediately.


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“This was an empty building school that was apparently beingused by Hamas inside Jerusalem,” said national police spokesman MickyRosenfeld. “It was closed down after a signed document from the InspectorGeneral in order to prevent any Hamas activity taking place inside,” he said,citing classified intelligence. Rosenfeld added that this is the standardprocedure when they suspect a building of harboring Hamas activities.

Dr. Khaled Atwan, one of the 11 members of the NajatSteering Committee and the father of a four-year-old girl who was registered toattend, vehemently denied that any of the members had ties to the terroristorganization.  “It is not related to anypolitical activities or anything, it is a kindergarten,” he said on Thursday. “Weonly do things that are related to social activities, only social things forour neighborhood and outside the neighborhood, but mostly in our neighborhood.”

According to the police order, the building will stay closedfor a month, after which time the police will reexamine the situation anddecide whether or not to seal the building for the remainder of the year, saidAtwan. In the meantime, the school is trying to decide whether to fight to stayin the current building or find another building in the neighborhood.

The Najat School has operated a private kindergarten for thepast six years for about 60 students in a smaller building on the same street. Theyhad planned to add another class of approximately 60 children this year.

More than 60 children who had already registered for theschool year are rushing to find alternatives. “Now everything is full, mylittle brother is at home because he has nowhere to go to school,” said Vedi,who was working at a small supermarket next to the shuttered school. “The wholeneighborhood was excited that they’re opening here,” he said. “If they knew itwas headed by a Hamas operative, why didn’t they close it from the beginning?”

In 2009 Najat decided to renovate the building that held themunicipality Ahmed Samach school, which moved to another location after thebuilding was deemed unsafe. Najat said in the future, they would also like toopen a girl’s high school in the building.

There is a severe lack of classrooms in east Jerusalem, andparents complain they have to drive far away to find a spot for their childrenin the classroom.

Atwan said the children, who had been looking forward totheir first day of kindergarten, are confused about why they are still at home.“She was very happy to go to school,” said Atwan of his 4-year-old daughter, andwhose two elder daughters also attended Najat. “She and her mother went to thebuildings beforehand and she was happy to see it, and I told her that she can’tlearn here she has to go to another one she was very sad,” he said.