Elève dans une école harédi.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A battle being conducted by the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) leadership against a haredi school teaching general education subjects in addition to religious studies has been stepped up with several senior haredi rabbis calling on Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to relocate the school.
The Chachmei Lev yeshiva high school, headed by Rabbi Betzalel Cohen, currently has its premises on the outskirts of the haredi Bayit Vegan neighborhood but has been seeking a larger building for its growing number of pupils.
Pupils at the school study toward the Israel high-school diploma, as well as learning Talmud and religious texts studied in mainstream haredi yeshivot, which haredi pupils attend from the ages of 13 to 17.
Chachmei Lev has grown from some 12 pupils in 2013 to approximately 100 pupils that will begin the 2017 school year, but objections were raised to the school being relocated to Ramat Eshkol and Ramat Shlomo, both haredi neighborhoods, by haredi leaders concerned about the impact of the school on the neighborhood.
And against the background of secular-haredi tensions in Kiryat Yovel, secular residents of the neighborhood opposed locating Chachmei Lev there as well.
Following these rejections, a building to situate the school’s new premises was found at another location also on the outskirts of Bayit Vegan, and the Jerusalem Municipal Council recently allocated NIS 1.6 million to Chachmei Lev to renovate the building.
The haredi political parties in the municipal council strongly objected to the allocation of funds to the school, although they were ultimately unsuccessful, and the money for the renovation was approved.
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Following this failure by the political leadership, several senior rabbis issued a letter to Barkat on Friday, and published in the Hapeles daily newspaper calling on him to prevent the school’s relocation inside Bayit Vegan.
“This institution is against utterly and fundamentally opposed to the Torah spirit of the Bayit Vegan neighborhood,” wrote the rabbis, including Rabbi Baruch Mordechai Ezrahi, a member of the Council of Torah Sages of Degel Hatorah, as well as other yeshiva deans and communal rabbis.
The rabbis said that Bayit Vegan enjoyed “quiet and tranquility because rabbis of the neighborhood direct and lead the neighborhood.”
Continued the rabbis, “It is clear that bringing this institution to the neighborhood will lead to storms and disputes and will breach the tranquility of our neighborhood.”
They went on to call on Barkat to retract both the allocation of the building and the renovation funds for Chachmei Lev.
In a recent editorial, Yated Neeman, the largest selling haredi daily newspaper, denounced Chachmei Lev as “a trojan horse” that would destroy haredi Judaism, said that Cohen and others involved in the school were “the spiritual murderers of the Torah giants of the next generation,” and sought to plant spiritual bombs in the midst of faithful Judaism.
The newspaper said that Chachmei Lev educated pupils in “totally anti-haredi principles and intends to break the walls of separation and topple the barriers” separating the haredi community from broader Israeli society.
Cohen said on Sunday that he was optimistic that a final contract would be signed in the coming weeks for his school to use and renovate the new building.
He also said that the rabbi’s letter made little sense since Chachmei Lev is currently located in Bayit Vegan, and noted that the new location was also close to the boundaries of the neighborhood.
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