IE cuts through red tape to keep students warm

Bureaucracy had kept Or Yehuda school without power.

A bureaucratic tangle that left an Orthodox school in Or Yehuda without electricity for months has temporarily been overlooked by Israel Electric, which has restored power to keep pupils warm during the current cold spell. "I'm not willing to see children freeze because of a bureaucratic argument," IE president Amos Lasker said Wednesday. IE technicians restored power to the Michtav Mieliyahu school on Monday. The school owes more than NIS 33,000 in electricity fees. In a statement, IE blamed the Or Yehuda Municipality for failing to pay the school's bills, saying the municipality had requested that power be cut after concluding that the school was not under its responsibility. But Or Yehuda Mayor David Yosef on Wednesday told The Jerusalem Post his repeated attempts to pay the school's electricity fees had been blocked by the Interior Ministry. The Or Yehuda Municipality is under a government-imposed financial recovery plan that was instituted in response to previous management failures, Yosef said, adding that no financial support could be provided to "external bodies." Despite being located in Or Yehuda and receiving partial government recognition, Michtav Mieliyahu has not been granted full recognition. Its obscure standing means that, technically, the school "doesn't belong to the municipality and can't be part of the budget," Yosef said. "Last year I organized a private donation of NIS 25,000 to pay the bills, but since then a new debt has been created," he said. "No one in the government is willing to take responsibility. The school has no electricity, so the mayor is blamed, even though I've allocated a budget for the school and would like to pay its electricity bills." Yosef said he even had tried to pay part of the bill out of his own pocket but was prevented from doing so by the government, which said that would be illegal. "I'm seeing a lot of sympathy, but no one is willing to pay the debt," Yosef said. "My hands have been tied by the Interior Ministry. "I ask you, of all the political parties in Israel, all the lawyers involved in this case, can no one donate toward this? In the meantime, the children are freezing. This problem won't end until the school's status is changed... The Municipality is not responsible for this situation." In a statement sent to the Post, the Interior Ministry said: "According to the law, a municipality cannot transfer funds to a non-city body, unless it does so according to the assistance procedure. Despite receiving a number of reminders from the Interior Ministry, the municipality has delayed determining the criterion. Since the criterion was approved by the ministry a month ago, it is now up to the municipality to determine it, which it has not done, so far."