Israeli student [Illustrative].
(photo credit: MEIRAV KFIR)
The Tel Aviv Municipality faced a backlash on Sunday following a Channel 10 news report that it had instructed schools to cancel scheduled class trips to Jerusalem in light of the escalating violence there.
According to the Saturday night report, the municipality canceled trips to Jerusalem for eighth graders who were scheduled to visit the city next week for bar and bat mitzva trips. The students were set to visit the Western Wall and Ammunition Hill. The latter is near where last Wednesday’s terror attack left two people dead, including a three-month-old infant.
According to the report, schools gave students letters to take home stating that class trips to Jerusalem would be canceled until further notice in light of the recent violence.
In response, the Jerusalem Municipality issued a statement Sunday that criticized the cancellation, although it referred to it only as an “isolated decision.”
“The cancellation of a visit of a group of students from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is not indicative of a policy statement on the part of the Tel Aviv Municipality,” the statement said. “The cancellation was an isolated decision of a Tel Aviv school to postpone a trip.”
The municipality went on to condemn the decision as rewarding Arab terrorism and rioting.
“The Jerusalem Municipality and the police do not recommend tour cancellations, for that would only serve to reward those who are disturbing the peace,” the statement continued. “Jerusalem is a safe and open city that welcomes and encourages all visitors from all faiths from across Israel and around the world.”
Nonetheless, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Rachel Azaria (Yerushalmim), who holds the city’s education portfolio, dismissed the decision to cancel as “outrageous” and, after calling her Tel Aviv counterpart, claimed the cancellations were more widespread than just one school.
“I reached out to the Department of Education in Tel Aviv, and they tried to claim it was only one school that canceled, but we know that 100 groups, with over 30 groups scheduled to come today, Tuesday and Wednesday, were canceled,” Azaria said.
“It’s irresponsible,” she said. “It can’t be that the government, municipality and everyone is saying that life in Jerusalem should continue as usual but Tel Aviv children should not come here.”
Still, she said the door remained open to Tel Aviv students.
“We welcome them and are happy to have them,” she said.
City Hall in Tel Aviv released a statement Sunday denying that it had called on schools to cancel trips to Jerusalem.
“The Tel Aviv Municipality encourages schools to visit Jerusalem and has been doing so these past few days,” the statement said.
“It is clear from here that there is no comprehensive instruction to cancel trips to the capital,” it went on. “On the contrary, next week one of the schools will hold its annual trip to Jerusalem.”
The statements related to the group that canceled by saying: “This was a specific trip of 8th-grade classes that was supposed to take place this coming week and include tours of some of the places where there were recent violent incidents. As such, at the request of the parents, it was decided to postpone it and reschedule soon.”
MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud) on Sunday called the decision not to send class trips to Jerusalem justified.
“We need to understand. The British Mandate is over,” the deputy Knesset speaker wrote on his Facebook page. “Back then it was correct to fight the enemy through the use of citizens. But today we have a state and its central role is to provide security. That is why the state has an army and a police force.”
Feiglin criticized the government, saying: “If the IDF in Gaza and the police in Jerusalem were given orders to win and it was clear that this is what they would do quickly and decisively, there would be room to ask citizens in the meanwhile to also to bear the burden and demonstrate civil courage.”
However, he added, since the government, the IDF and the police had decided to “manage the conflict,” the decision to cancel trips to Jerusalem taken by parents in Tel Aviv was necessary and understandable.