A kindergarten in the Abu Tor neighborhood of east Jerusalem was forced to close this week after police claimed the building of housing Hamas terrorist activities, leaving more than 60 kindergarteners scrambling to find alternatives for the school year.
The school was in the midst of registering new students on Sunday when they received a signed order from Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Yochanan Danino to close the building immediately.
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“This was an empty building school that was apparently being used by Hamas inside Jerusalem,” said national police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. “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 standard procedure when they suspect a building of harboring Hamas activities.
Dr. Khaled Atwan, one of the 11 members of the Najat Steering Committee and the father of a four-year-old girl who was registered to attend, vehemently denied that any of the members had ties to the terrorist organization.
“It is not related to any political activities or anything, it is a kindergarten,” he said on Thursday.
“We only do things that are related to social activities – only social things for our neighborhood and outside the neighborhood – but mostly in our neighborhood.”
According to the police order, the building will stay closed for a month, after which time the police will reexamine the situation and decide whether or not to seal the building for the remainder of the year, said Atwan.
In the meantime, the school is trying to decide whether to fight to stay in the current building or find another building in the neighborhood.
The Najat School has operated a private kindergarten for the past six years for about 60 students in a smaller building on the same street. They had planned to add another class of approximately 60 children this year.
Now more than 60 children who had already registered for the school year are rushing to find alternatives.
“Now everything is full, my little 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 whole neighborhood was excited that they’re opening here. If they knew it was headed by a Hamas operative, why didn’t they close it from the beginning?” In 2009 Najat decided to renovate the building that held the municipality Ahmed Samach School, which moved to another location after the building was deemed unsafe. Najat said in the future, they would also like to open a girls’ high school in the building.
There is a severe lack of classrooms in east Jerusalem, and parents complain they have to drive far away to find spots for their children.
Atwan said the children, who had been looking forward to their 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 four-year- old daughter, and whose two elder daughters also attended Najat. “She and her mother went to the buildings beforehand and she was happy to see it, and I told her that she can’t learn here, she has to go to another one. She was very sad.”