Tel Aviv municipality houses private Jewish religious schools, but not secular or Arab ones
Another city-owned building gets allocated to a Shas-run school.
The Tel Aviv municipality provides buildings for 27 private religious and ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools, but refuses to do the same for the six private Arab schools and two secular schools operating in its jurisdiction.
Twenty-seven of the city's private schools are classified as "recognized but unofficial," which means they receive state funds although they are not part of the state education system.
Two additional secular Jewish schools and six Arab ones are also classified as "recognized but unofficial."
However, the city does not provide buildings for these schools "due to a shortage of property." Consequently the eight schools pay extremely high rental fees.
Yesterday the Tel Aviv city council approved allocation of a municipal building free of charge in the southern Neveh Ofer neighborhood for an ultra-Orthodox girls' elementary school operated by Shas, via the organization "Eli Be'ezri Reshit Hochma."
Until a year ago this school was located on Jaffa's Nahal Sorek Street. The building it vacated is now being used by the city as the Yefeh Nof state religious school for children of Jewish religious groups that have settled in Jaffa over the past years as well as in other neglected neighborhoods.
Tel Aviv council member Meital Lehavi (Meretz), who recently quit her post as deputy mayor, says the city's way of allocating buildings for schools is baffling.
"The mayor accused the ultra-Orthodox of raising ignoramuses, while continuing to allocate to them municipal assets for ultra-Orthodox schools," she says. "Huldai is paying off his coalition partners by giving them municipal assets." She blasted Huldai's earmarking the structure in Jaffa for religious groups' children: there are alternatives nearby, she said, and accused the city of strengthening religious education in Jaffa and increasing the tension between them and the Arab population.
"Secular schools don't get the same incentives," she says. "Worse, the city places insurmountable obstacles in the way of some of these schools."
The Tel Aviv Municipality said it acts on the basis of "an egalitarian worldview that promotes state education in the city regardless of the various communities. ... The city does not encourage opening independent, private or unofficial schools and none have opened in recent years. The recognized unofficial schools [belonging to the religious networks ) received the buildings in the past only due to court rulings."
The city said that in any case no Arab school has requested a building.
"The city invests considerable resources in the Arab schools and has even set up a new state school for the Arab community in Jaffa," the municipality's statement said. "The only other additional school is the religious state school Yefeh Nof, located in the building that used to be the Rashi girls religious state school, which moved to Neveh Ofer. ... Yefeh Nof school was established due to the need that arose with the arrival of a religious community to Jaffa and the absence of a co-ed religious school there," the statement said.