Peres, Barkat visit schools around J'lem

"Both Jews and Arabs should be permitted to build according to their needs," president tells e. J'lem schoolgirls.

barkat peres crossed the road 248 88 (photo credit: GPO / Mark Neiman)
barkat peres crossed the road 248 88
(photo credit: GPO / Mark Neiman)
President Shimon Peres and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat ushered in the new school year on Tuesday morning with visits to Jewish and Arab schools in the capital. The president told schoolgirls in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah that construction should be permitted for both Jews and Arabs in the capital. "Both Jews and Arabs should be permitted to build according to their needs," he told a pupil at the Al-Mamunia High School for girls, who had inquired about Jewish construction projects in east Jerusalem. "I hope you will all be mothers of peace," the president continued. "If mothers are educated, then their children will be as well. We want the entire country to be educated, regardless of gender, race or creed." Sheikh Jarrah has been the trigger for recent disagreements between Israel and the United States over Jewish building rights in the parts of the capital that were won in the Six Day War. Two Arab families were evicted in Sheikh Jarrah at the beginning of August after a court found in favor of Jewish claimants, and the now-defunct Shepherd Hotel, which is owned by American millionaire Irving Moskowitz and where there are plans to build a new apartment complex, is also located in Sheikh Jarrah. Both of those issues have drawn condemnation from the US, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling the August home evictions "provocative" and "unhelpful," while other administration officials have asked, or demanded, that Israel suspend the construction plans at the hotel site. Later in Tuesday's visit, another pupil complained of the difficulties she encounters when passing through security checkpoints on her way to school. "It must be understood that the [security] barrier is aimed at protecting lives," said Barkat, who fielded the question. "When the security situation improves, we won't want to see the wall. We all know it makes life difficult." Earlier in the day, the president and mayor visited an elementary school in the northeastern Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood, where the Peres told children to "study hard and listen to your teachers." While the new school year opened without any major problems, the Education Ministry's situation room, which was set-up in Jerusalem on Monday evening to follow all first day-related developments, received several reports of delays in the opening of schools throughout the country. A principal at an elementary school in Yehud refused to open the doors on Tuesday morning because the building had not received a safety permit after undergoing summertime renovations, and in Lod, parents refused to send their children to six Arab schools after complaining about infrastructure problems at those buildings. Nonetheless, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar said he was proud of the hard work his ministry employees had done and that he considered the opening of the school year a success, especially in light of the fact that no large strikes had been reported.