PA spending millions of dollars to renovate J'lem schools

City councilors, right-wing groups slam renovations of 15 private schools in east of city; Yakir Segev says "Authority isn't a matter of money."

shepherd hotel east jerusalem 248 (photo credit: )
shepherd hotel east jerusalem 248
(photo credit: )
The Palestinian Authority has set aside millions of dollars to renovate 15 private schools in east Jerusalem, angering city councilors and right-wing groups who believe the renovations amount to the PA flaunting their authority in municipal Jerusalem. Palestinian President Salam Fayyad will preside over two re-dedication ceremonies for schools next Tuesday.
“What you have here is recognized devaluation of the authority of the state of Israel in Jerusalem,” city councilor Elisha Peleg told the Post. “Little by little, they take more and more authority away from the State to take care of the residents of the city.”
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Peleg noted that the PA is already paving roads and providing other services that the municipality should be providing. Fayyad earmarked NIS 1.2 million to pave roads in Dahiyat al-Salam, a neighborhood located within the municipality but outside the security barrier, Haaretz reported. Street paving began in late September.
The PA’s sponsorship of school renovations came as a surprise to the municipality. “We know the PA has been trying to do activities and sponsor projects in Jerusalem,” said city councilor Yakir Segev, who holds the east Jerusalem portfolio. He said that the police would look into how the PA transferred money to sponsor the renovations, as PA funding within municipal Jerusalem borders is illegal.
The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel sent a letter on Wednesday to Jerusalem police and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch asking them to stop to rededication ceremonies on Tuesday. “This is a type of destruction,” said Legal Forum spokesman Shmuel Klein. “We’re talking about renovating a school and a dedication ceremony which is forbidden according to the law.”
The sponsorship puts the municipality in an awkward position, because the decrepit state of school facilities in east Jerusalem is well known. “There’s a vacuum because there isn’t enough assistance by the authorities making sure that every child in Jerusalem can go to school,” said Ronit Sela, the spokeswoman for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. ACRI has counted a shortage of at least 1,000 classrooms in east Jerusalem, and more than a quarter of the existing classrooms are in “inappropriate conditions.”
“ To tell someone they can’t do it, while municipality isn’t doing it, is ironic and problematic,” said Sela.
The 15 schools renovated with PA funds are all private schools, which do not receive funding from the municipality or the Ministry of Education. They are scattered across Jerusalem, including central neighborhoods like Sheikh Jarrah, Wadi Joz, and the Old City. According to ACRI, 40,000 students in east Jerusalem study at private schools, though many do so unwillingly because they do not have access to public schools.
“The municipality of Jerusalem invests huge budgets in the eastern part of the city above and beyond what is customary in the western part of the city, including raising funds, distributing computers to students, and closing gaps, along with the Ministry of Education,” a source at municipality said.
Segev agreed that east Jerusalem schools are in dire need of an overhaul. “It’s clear that the money that we need to spend there is way over the abilities of the municipality, and we haven’t succeeded up until today,” he told the Post. He called on the government to “I’m hoping that this publicity will illuminate the problem… but even if we didn’t put [enough money], that doesn’t mean that someone else is allowed to attack our authority. There’s no connection, authority isn’t a matter of money.”