The Ramat Sharett neighborhood of Jerusalem.
(photo credit: courtesy)
The local planning and construction committee approved a project on Tuesday morning to enlarge a Ramat Sharett synagogue by 750 square meters, turning it into a comprehensive complex with a Kollel inc. The project is opposed by the neighborhood local council, a group of residents and others who feel it will change the character of that neighborhood.
For those who feared that the coalition negotiations held between Mayor Moshe Lion and the haredi representatives might lead to results difficult to swallow for secular residents, this large synagogue addition in a neighborhood with many secular residents can be seen as proof. Having touched some sensitive nerves in those Jerusalemites, it may have sown the seeds of the next religious-secular conflict in the city.
“We are not saying that religious residents in Ramat Sharett shouldn’t have a synagogue” says a neighborhood resident, “but to build such a large addition and add a kollel (a Talmudic center for married yeshiva students) is a sign that haredim plan to move in here, too, as they did in Kiryat Yovel. We won’t sit still.”
City council member and opposition head Ofer Berkovitch (Hitorerut) tried to prevent the decision during the committee session, but failed, outnumbered by the haredi and religious members of the committee, headed by Degel HaTorah leader Eliezer Rauchberger. The decision of the local committee still has to be approved by the district committee.
But this issue involves more than a local decision and the plan may never be implemented. Lion, who has no list of his own at the council (an unprecedented situation) might now discover what it means to have a coalition of mostly haredi and religious lists. Lion has been seeking to calm concerns that his coalition raises among the “pluralist” Jerusalemites, and upon becoming head of the committee, Rauchberger said that while he won’t apologize for taking care of his sector’s needs, he will not hurt the needs of the secular population in any way – adding that all residents have equal rights.
If so, how could Rauchberger fail to understand that this project in the heart of a quasi-secular neighborhood could be perceived as a direct threat to the way of life of seculars?
The only two coalition representatives of the secular residents – Yossi Havilio and Laura Wharton – have already clarified that they are opposed to this project and both plan to do their utmost to stop it at the next stage – the district committee. They have fair chances to succeed, since the local council of the neighborhood and a large group of residents have expressed their opposition and the committee must listen to their position.
So this project might never come to fruition, but the suspicion, mistrust, perhaps anger and even hatred between the population sectors have increased. Nobody desires that; tensions between haredim and seculars in Kiryat Yovel are more than enough for this city. No one needs to open a new front.
Rauchberger will probably not relent, but this may be an ideal time for Lion to show that he is serious about serving all the residents and not only those included in his coalition – meaning the haredim and religious.
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