Municipality lawyer: J'lem Arab students discriminated against
Att. Yossi Havilio says municipality prevents formal education from E. J'lem kids, due to space shortage.
The Jerusalem municipality is discriminating against East Jerusalem students by not providing places of study for everyone, and is thereby contravening its legal obligation, the municipality's own legal counsel says in a letter addressed to the mayor and all senior city hall officials.
The letter from attorney Yossi Havilio was sent in connection with a petition to the High Court of Justice against the municipality, demanding that it enable all children in East Jerusalem to attend state schools, in keeping with the requirements of the Compulsory Education Law.
In response, the municipality undertook to present a plan for constructing hundreds of classrooms in East Jerusalem.
Havilio writes that he encountered "a harsh picture" in the process of preparing the case for court. He discovered the municipal education division each year rejects hundreds of applications from children in East Jerusalem seeking a formal education, because of a shortage of space.
Sometimes the municipality "crams" some applicants into existing schools, Havilio says, "at the expense of exceeding the number of pupils authorized by the Education Ministry and exceeding the usual number of pupils in West Jerusalem."
At some schools, conditions are so bad "they do not permit reasonable conditions for study," Havilio added.
The city is breaking the law, he concluded: "By rejecting the applications by pupils in East Jerusalem, the municipality is in fact acting contrary to its legal obligation. Aside from this, there is no doubt that it constitutes discrimination compared to the situation in the western part of the city."
The petition against the city was filed in 2000 by the Ir Amim organization on behalf of East Jerusalem residents, and Meretz city council member Pepe Alalo. A partial ruling in 2001 gave the city four years to build 245 classrooms. However, the petitioners claim that only a fraction of that number was built in the time allotted, so they applied to the High Court to levy a fine on the municipality and Education Ministry for contempt of court.
The Jerusalem municipality commented that it prepared a multiyear plan for building schools, but that the government is responsible for their budgeting, and without such budgeting the severe shortage of schools in East Jerusalem will continue.