Beit Shemesh - Emil Salman
The ultra-Orthodox community in Beit Shemesh. Photo by Emil Salman.
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Three out of every four Beit Shemesh children entering the first grade in the 2012/2013 academic year will be registered in official ultra-Orthodox insitutions, according to figures published Tuesday by the Beit Shemesh education authority.

The 75 percent of the students stands at a total of 2,500 children who will be entering ultra-Orthodox institutions. The data includes exempt institutions that are only part-funded by the education ministry.

The remaining 25 percent, a total of 625 children, will have been registered to state education institutions, some of which are religious institutions.

Last year, the number of ultra-Orthodox students was less than 70 percent, and the size of the ultra-Orthodox education system stood at 60 percent. This figure only includes official ultra-Orthodox institutions that receive state funding and are recognized by the education ministry. Beit Shemesh also has a not insignificant number of educational institutions that are not recognized by the state.

According to Shmuel Greenberg (United Torah), who is deputy-mayor of the city, and the official responsible for ultra-Orthodox education in Beit Shemesh, the amount of children going into ultra-Orthodox education is higher among younger age groups.

Of 7,000 Beit Shemesh five to eight-year-olds, for example, a total of 5,800 will be ultra-Orthodox.

“The welcome increase in students in the ultra-Orthodox education sector requires a long-term vision for the coming years,” he said.

“Ultra-Orthodox education is already facing a big shortage in construction of classrooms, which will worsen with time. We turned to the education ministry, the growth is huge, we are in a catastrophic situation in terms of building permissions,” he added.

“In Beit Shemesh two classrooms are born every week, and the majority are ultra-Orthodox babies.”

Beit Shemesh has been in headlines recently in a number of cases involving the city's ultra-Orthodox community, with some related to the issue of exclusion of women from the public arena.

In January, a crowd of ultra-Orthodox men jumped on 27-year-old Natali Mashiah's car in the Haredi Ramat Beit Shemet Bet neighborhood, she said. Members of the crowd smashed her car windows and punctured her four tires before spilling bleach on the inside of her car, said the Beit Shemesh resident, adding that she believed the men were going to set her on fire.

The incident follows the highly publicized case of 8-year-old Na'ama Margolese last month, who was reportedly spat at for her supposedly insufficiently modest dress despite the fact that she comes from a religious family.