‘The separation wall is a disgrace to Zionism’ is written on the structure in the Beit Shemesh school yard..
(photo credit: NATI SHOHAT / FLASH 90)
The Jerusalem District Court recommended that the Ministry of Education and the Beit Shemesh Municipal Council enter into dialogue over the use of the Safot VeTarbuyot school in the city that the local authority unilaterally partitioned last week to make room for a haredi girls school that required premises for 100 pupils.
Judge Arnon Darel rejected however the ministry’s request for an interim injunction against the municipal council which requested that the haredi girls school, Mishkenot Daat, be prevented from using Safot VeTarbuyot’s premises.
This will allow the haredi girls school to operate from the newly established premises until a final decision is made by the court, should the Ministry of Education insist on a full hearing.
The judge said that the approximately 100 pupils of Mishkenot Daat had studied in tents last week, which he called “troubling [and] requiring appropriate consideration,” and therefore refused to prevent them from studying in Safot VeTarbuyot until a full hearing and a final decision is taken on the matter.
He pointed out that the Safot VeTarbuyot school had large premises which is not fully utilized. The school has 144 enrolled pupils but capacity to teach approximately 500 pupils.
Darel added that “irreversible damage” had not been done to the school by last week’s partition and that the pupils of Safot VeTarbyot were still able to study there without hindrance.
The judge did however note that a safety inspector from the ministry had found that emergency exits had been blocked; there are not enough toilet facilities for the pupils of Safot VeTarbuyot (seven cubicles for 150 pupils) without gender separate facilities, and no approval from a fire safety approval.
He also criticized the Beit Shemesh municipality calling its behaviour “far from appropriate [in relation] to legal, administrative principles,” and said the ministry’s claims were “substantive,” given the timing of the decision and the manner in which the decision was taken “without coordination or dialogue and in total opposition to the position of the Ministry of Education.”
“This case concerns two educational institutions for children who live together in a complicated reality in a city with different populations,” the judge concluded.
“Even though there are disputes amongst the parents and adults, it does not have to be the children in both schools cannot live together and share resources while preserving the individuality of both schools.
“These are the educational challenges of the teachers, and it only remains for me to hope that they will live up to these challenges and will serve as an example of co-existence with understanding, mutual respect and the acceptance of the ‘language and culture,’ of the other,” said Darel, punning on the name of the Safot VeTarbuyot school, which means languages and cultures in English.
Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbul described the decision a victory and called on the Ministry of Education to cooperate with him for the benefit of the city’s children.
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