High Court rebukes municipality, Education Ministry over education in e. Jerusalem

'The authorities have to know that there is somebody watching their steps' - Sarah Kreimer

east jlem school 88 (photo credit: )
east jlem school 88
(photo credit: )
The municipality of Jerusalem and the Education Ministry have not fulfilled their previous obligations to create 245 classrooms in the east Jerusalem educational system. As a result, thousands of students in east Jerusalem cannot fulfill their right for free education. Within the next five months the state will have to prepare a detailed plan to solve this serious problem. Furthermore, the state will have to transfer the approved budgets to the municipality of Jerusalem, so that the creation of the classrooms will start immediately." So reads the recent decision by the High Court of Justice. As recently reported in In Jerusalem ("Courting Education," October 28) Ir Amim, a group working towards sustainable solutions in Jerusalem, in conjunction with the Beit Hanina Community Development Association, the Kfar Aqab Residents' Committee, the Issawiya Residents' Committee, and City Council Member, Yosef (Pepe) Alalu, petitioned the High Court of Justice to cite the municipality and the ministry for contempt of court and requesting that they be fined accordingly. The city and the ministry, they contended, had disregarded a previous court ruling, handed down more than three years ago, instructing them to register east Jerusalem children in public schools in Jerusalem and to build classrooms for these children. Although the judges decided not to hold the state in contempt, they described the situation in east Jerusalem as "forlorn." Says Sarah Kreimer, associate director of Ir Amim, "The judges understood that the situation is indeed very serious and cannot be tolerated. The first important decision that was taken is to conduct a survey that will determine how many children of school-age actually live in east Jerusalem." According to the decision, 'Ir Amim' will also take part in this survey. "The second important decision," Kreimer continues, "is that the state is obliged to transfer the necessary funds before the end of the year [in one month] to the municipality of Jerusalem so that the construction can begin immediately." Yet as the court's decision shows, the ministry and municipality have not followed its rulings in the past, so what are the chances that the state and city will fulfill their obligations this time? Kreimer says she is "optimistic but realistic" and promises to continue to monitor the developments. "If the state wants our help - we will gladly coordinate, but if it's not about to fulfill its obligations, then we will act accordingly. The state needs to know that it's being watched. "Also, it's important to understand that it's not only a matter of funds and budgets - there is a larger and more concerning question of priorities and preferences," says Kreimer. In response to IJ's queries, the Education Ministry sent the following written reply, "This is a decision by the Court, and not a ruling. The decision taken by the Court dictates that the municipality of Jerusalem and the Education Ministry must prepare, within five months, a plan for the construction of additional classrooms for the students of east Jerusalem."