Jerusalem City Council unanimously approves funding for disputed Lone Soldier residential center

Funding for facility nearly derailed by haredi opposition to secular management company

AJC's lone soldier Thanksgiving feast (photo credit: SHAY WAGNER)
AJC's lone soldier Thanksgiving feast
(photo credit: SHAY WAGNER)
Following the near derailment of a discounted Jerusalem housing center for Lone Soldiers in the capital due to haredi opposition to a secular management company, the Jerusalem City Council unanimously approved a special budget for the center Tuesday night.
The five-story residential complex, called Beit Giora and located in Kiryat Yoevel, is intended to provide affordable housing to nearly 200 of the nation’s 6,000 Lone Soldiers who cannot afford prohibitive residential costs in between training.
However, last Thursday when the city’s finance committee voted on providing NIS 170,000 to the Yovlim neighborhood administration, which manages the center, ultra-Orthodox council members voted to scrap the project due to the organization’s secularity.
“The project is operated by the municipality’s Youth Authority and Yovlim, and the haredi council members think both groups are anti-haredi, which of course, is not true,” a municipal official, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the talks, explained.
In response to the controversy surrounding haredi opposition to funding the center, United Torah Judaism Councilman Yitzhak Pindrus said the decision is not intended to punish Lone Soldiers, but rather the disparity in funding among secular and ultra-Orthodox groups.
Nonetheless, opposition to the funding incensed a number of prominent politicians, including former ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, who described the move as “shameful” and “anti-Zionist.”
Oren later called an emergency meeting with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who vowed to pass the budget, noting that the housing center transcended politics.
“Lone  male and female soldiers are beyond political or factional dispute, and we will continue to help them,” he said after the budget was passed.
“Their choice to serve, contribute and fight for national security is an example to us all, and we will continue to strengthen and embrace the troops and the Lone Soldiers in Jerusalem during their service and help them to integrate into the city at the end of their military service.”
According to the municipality, currently more than 50 Lone Soldiers reside in Beit Giora, while many others seeking residence are on a waiting list.