J’lem to extend school days for Arab boys to reduce violence

Move sends ‘dangerous message’ that acting out is way to improve education, ex-councilman Margalit says.

Rock-throwing in east Jerusalem in July 2014. (photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)
Rock-throwing in east Jerusalem in July 2014.
(photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)
In an effort to curtail chronic violence by Arab youths, the Jerusalem Municipality announced Wednesday that it would extend school hours for boys living in east Jerusalem.
The move came hours after rock-throwing attacks left four Jewish teens and an Arab woman in her 50s lightly wounded Tuesday night in the flashpoint neighborhood of E-Tur as they made their way home from a coexistence seminar. Four of the five were treated at Hadassah University Medical Center, Ein Kerem.
East Jerusalem teens have routinely attacked both police officers and civilians with rocks, firebombs and fireworks.
Working in coordination with the Education Ministry and police, the municipality said it had devised the strategy following the riots by Arab minors last year in the eastern portion of the capital. According to a police analysis of the phenomenon, the vast majority of violence was committed shortly after Arab secondary schools concluded for the day, by children as young as 10 years old.
A NIS 900,000 pilot program that the municipality and ministry initiated late last year showed promise in lowering crime and serves as a model for the extended plan, the municipality said.
To subsidize the prolonged school days, the municipality and ministry will allocate an undisclosed amount of funding to 15 boys’ schools in problematic neighborhoods, including E-Tur, Isawiya, Silwan, Shuafat and Beit Hanina.
Girls’ schools, however, will not receive matching funds.
“This is an innovative and unique program, intended to provide an educational and social vocational answer for male students in the eastern part of the city during the hours after the school day, during which many of them are unsupervised,” the municipality said.
Noting the disproportionately high dropout rates among east Jerusalem Arab youths, the municipality said the schools would add a wide range of classes and counseling services to the curriculum to help reverse the trend, including a program at the Hebrew University.
However, according to former Meretz city councilman Meir Margalit, who held the east Jerusalem portfolio (a post Mayor Nir Barkat has since taken over), the municipality is “sending a dangerous message” by adding the services exclusively for troubled boys.
“It’s paradoxical,” Margalit said on Wednesday. “On one side, I support the idea to improve the education system in east Jerusalem, but the context is a very negative one and sends a very dangerous message to the young Palestinian population.”
That message, he said, is: “If you continue to make problems by throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails, then the municipality will improve educational ser - vices. So in order to improve schools, you should be troublemakers.”
Moreover, Margalit said the municipality and minis - try were sending an equally dangerous message to the tens of thousands of Arab girls who would not receive the same opportunity as their more violent counterparts.
“This tells the girls that the only reason the boys are getting more services is because they’re troublemakers and girls are not,” he said. “So what’s the conclusion for the girls? That they should throw rocks as well? Of course this is discriminatory.”
He added, “Even when the municipality improves things, they do it in the wrong way.”