Proposed haredi kindergarten causes stir in J'lem neighborhood

Secular residents concerned plan will decrease quality of life and turn community ultra-Orthodox.

Kiryat Hayovel protest 224.88 (photo credit: Labor Party Youth 224.88)
Kiryat Hayovel protest 224.88
(photo credit: Labor Party Youth 224.88)
The Jerusalem municipality's plan to build a haredi kindergarten in the predominantly secular neighborhood of Kiryat Hayovel is disturbing secular residents concerned that their quality of life will be harmed, and that their community will join others in the city that have turned ultra-Orthodox. The proposal to build the kindergarten in a vacant lot has been put forward by Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Yehoshua Pollack (United Torah Judaism), who also holds the powerful municipal planning and construction portfolio. At issue is the latest in a series of disputes over haredi moves in the once-secular neighborhood. City tractors broke ground for the placement of two caravans for the kindergarten last Thursday. Pollack said haredi children in Kiryat Yovel needed a kindergarten, and that he preferred putting the caravans in the lot to taking an empty building away from the state secular school system. The construction, which prompted a small demonstration on Monday night, has been temporarily suspended at the orders of City Attorney Yossi Havilio, after it emerged that the city did not have all the requisite permits. "The starting point in our relations with the haredim has to be that the lifestyle of neither side is hurt," said neighborhood resident Esti Kirmaier. Kirmaier heads a new list of "Young Labor Party Members in Jerusalem" that plans to run in the municipal election on November 11 and that organized the demonstration, which was attended by several dozen people. "I am concerned by the trend of haredization of Jerusalem neighborhoods in general, our neighborhood in particular," she said, adding that the struggle between secular and religious Jews in the city was assuming war-like proportions.Jerusalem Municipal spokesman Gidi Schmerling said the placement of the two caravans was solely based on need. "The caravans are intended for pupils who are neighborhood residents, and the municipality is required to place them [there] in light of the fact that no permanent solution has been found up until now that will afford them a proper study place like the rest of the city's pupils," he said in a statement. The dispute follows a neighborhood struggle to prevent the city from allocating land intended for a state school to be used for a haredi yeshiva, and comes on the heels of opposition to the city hall-backed construction of an eruv (a symbolic marker allowing observant Jews to perform certain tasks usually forbidden on Shabbat) in the neighborhood.