Jerusalem Lone Soldier center blocked by haredi parties

Oren: I feel great shame at the immoral step taken by these religious factions.

Haredi man and IDF soldiers in Jerusalem. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Haredi man and IDF soldiers in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Plans for a discounted housing center in the capital for lone soldiers were shelved last week due to objections by ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem Municipality councilmen over funding being allocated to a secular organization.
According to Jared White, director of counseling and education at the Lone Soldier Center, a Kiryat Hayovel facility was intended to provide affordable housing to some of the nation’s 6,000 lone soldiers – soldiers who have no immediate family in Israel – who cannot afford prohibitive residential costs during training.
“We came to the municipality a year ago, and one of our biggest problems is finding lone soldiers a place to live, which the army helps with, but is still not adequate, even though it gives all it can,” White said of the IDF’s NIS 1,046 monthly stipend for lonely soldiers.
During a meeting on the issue, the municipality suggested turning Beit Giora, a five-story former absorption center that has been turned into a youth housing center with more 150 beds, into a discounted housing destination for the soldiers, he said.
Since then, eight lone soldiers have moved into the facility, with others planning on relocating there, although city funding for their rent has not been approved.
However, on Thursday, when the municipality’s finance committee mulled providing NIS 170,000 to the Yovelim neighborhood administration that manages the facility, haredi (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 Yovelim, and the haredi council members think both groups are anti-haredi, which of course, is not true,” a municipal official who requested anonymity explained on Monday. “I think this is a misunderstanding that can be resolved.”
In response to the controversy surrounding the haredi opposition to funding the center, United Torah Judaism councilman Yitzhak Pindrus said that the decision is not intended to punish lone soldiers, but rather the disparity in funding between secular and ultra-Orthodox groups.
“We are not against lone soldiers; we are against the Yovelim administration, which ignores the 25 percent of [Kiryat Hayovel] residents who are not entitled to receive money from the administration,” Pindrus said.