Schools and rules in the corona era

Peggy Cidor's round-up of city affairs

Reciting Selichot at the Moussaieff Synagogue in the Bukharan Quarter (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
Reciting Selichot at the Moussaieff Synagogue in the Bukharan Quarter
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
About three weeks ago, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky – Israel’s leading spiritual leader among non-hassidic haredim – decided to open education institutions for boys despite coronavirus restrictions. This week is the girls’ turn.
Some 45,000 Jerusalemite girls in the haredi education stream will return to their classes – again, before the government decision regarding the equivalent grades in the public stream.
Haredi girls in the city study in various educational institutions, ranging from the public haredi system to completely independent hassidic institutions where studies are conducted in Yiddish, not under the supervision of the Education Ministry. In recent weeks, some of these girls’ schools reopened their gates for classes – primarily private institutions that do not rely on the city’s education administration.
Sources in the haredi sector suggest that cases of girls, freed from the confines of the classroom, drifting away from the enclave’s strict rules raised concerns that influenced the decision to reopen.
Spar with the czar
When new coronavirus czar Prof. Nahman Ash made an official visit to the capital earlier this week, Mayor Moshe Lion asked him to bring up Jerusalem’s educational needs with the coronavirus cabinet. Lion says that seventh- to 10th-grade students should now return to their classrooms, before the damage caused by the lack of an educational framework is too severe.
Ash agreed to champion the issue at the next cabinet meeting, where he has the support of Education Minister Yoav Galant, but as of this writing the matter still has not been decided. Jerusalem has the highest number of students in all grades – 275,000 including the Arab sector – and most haven’t been attending school since coronavirus hit early this year.
The solution proposed by Safra Square would be to run COVID-19 tests at least twice a week in all grades to monitor infected students. However, since these tests cannot be mandatory, the municipal proposal does not cover all issues linked to school reopenings.
Teachers at the Orot Etzion school hand out ice cream to students at home due to COVID-19 restrictions (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)
Seizing the moment
The annual budget deliberation for Jerusalem Open House, a nonprofit community center serving people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, took place this week. For more than 20 years, this issue has been voted on by the allocations committee and then by city council as a whole. Each year attempts are renewed to cancel (or at least, as happened this year, to reduce) city funding.
This year (after the issue was brought to court) the committee was required to hold a serious debate on how the issue of the Jerusalem Open House could be updated, but at the end of the meeting a decision rejecting any additional budget was brought to vote. At that moment members of Hitorerut (the opposition, with seven seats at city council), realizing that by chance they constituted the majority at the meeting, seized the day – quickly voting to reject the decision of the allocations committee and upgrade the budget.
Overdue facelift
One allocation not causing controversy at Safra Square is the NIS 1.5 million for extensive “Bukhari shuk” renewal work. Established in the late 1800s, this is one of Jerusalem’s most ancient markets, located in the Bukharian neighborhood between Shmuel Hanavi and Geula – all religious and/or haredi neighborhoods.
The planned renovations include roofing over alleys, and a comprehensive system of air conditioning, paved alleys and lighting. Considered the “little brother” of Mahaneh Yehuda, the Bukharian market has never been renovated though it serves a large population, but now its time has come.
The two remaining city markets that haven’t yet received any attention are located in Mea She’arim and in the Old City, close to Damascus Gate. For now, there are no plans to invest there, but these two – which also serve large populations – will probably get their day before long.
Driven from home
Next Monday, November 30, is the fourth annual Day of Commemoration to Mark the Departure and Expulsion of Jews from the Arab Countries and Iran.
The establishment of the State of Israel led to the forced expulsion of close to a million Jews from these countries in the Middle East and North Africa as refugees. “Eretz Zion and Jerusalem” is the official name of this year’s memorial day recalling the fate of countrymen driven from the lands of their ancestors, stripped of their properties and belongings – often, as in the case of Egypt, within 48 hours – because they were Jews. Sizable populations were expelled from Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. These countries accused them of Zionist “aggression” even though in most cases the charge was baseless.
The major event marking the day will be under the auspices of the Jerusalem Ministry, with Minister Rafi Peretz, including a large-scale musical event shared through Zoom – with 14 communities from the lost world of these destroyed communities.