Neighborhood to get Secular Yeshiva amid tension

Jerusalem community with tense secular/haredi relations, pre-army program as part of mayor's vision to "strengthen" area.

Haredi and secular in Mea Shearim 390 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Haredi and secular in Mea Shearim 390
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The Kiryat Hayovel neighborhood in Jerusalem will be the future site of a secular yeshiva and pre-army program, the Jerusalem municipality announced on Sunday in the latest step of the neighborhood saga that has pitted ultra-Orthodox residents against secular and national-religious residents.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat announced that the Warburg compound in the neighborhood will not be dedicated to haredi educational institutions, as had been decided by the previous mayor, Uri Lupoliansky, who is haredi.
The Jerusalem Secular Yeshiva, which provides 15 students with a four-month intensive learning and onsite living program, will move to Kiryat Hayovel from the neighborhood of Ein Kerem, where it has been based for the past year. The program is aimed at bringing people post-army to Jerusalem and to help them create a connection with the city that encourages them to stay in the capital. The yeshiva is a branch of the Bina Secular Yeshiva in Tel Aviv, which was founded ten years ago.
Kiryat Hayovel, located in the southwest of Jerusalem, is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Jerusalem and tension has risen as ultra-Orthodox have began to flock to the cheaper rents.
In recent years, activist organizations such as Ruah Hadasha (New Spirit) have created communes and purchasing groups of young families who buy apartments together to counter the growing haredi influence in the area.
The municipality has defined the neighborhood as a “priority area” to receive extra spending in both physical improvements – including construction of sidewalks and repaving roads – as well as community programs such as after-school initiatives.
Barkat said on Sunday that he was “investing a lot of energy into making Kiryat Hayovel a vibrant and attractive neighborhood for young families,” and that the secular yeshiva and pre-army seminary are part of that vision.
“Jerusalem is the spiritual center of all citizens, and we’re trying to make sure it will also be the spiritual center for secular people,” said Ariel Levinson, the head of curriculum and the administrative committee of the secular yeshiva.
Levinson was quick to point out that the secular yeshiva’s new location is not meant to be antagonistic to Kiryat Hayovel’s haredi population, and that the institution also attracts haredi participants at some programs.
City councilor Yitzhak Pindrus (United Torah Judaism) – who has been a vocal supporter of increasing the number of institutions in the haredi community, especially in Kiryat Hayovel – refused to comment on the matter.