Beit Shemesh Haredi School Barred From Using Building Run by Secular School

Education Ministry last week threatened to cut funding to Beit Shemesh schools if the municipality went ahead with the decision to split the school in two.

Emil Salman

A court on Tuesday issued a restraining order barring an ultra-Orthodox school in Beit Shemesh from using part of a building belonging to one of the city’s secular schools.

The order, which was requested by the Education Ministry, will remain in force until the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court issues a final ruling on the case, unless the ministry changes its mind and gives the Haredi school, Mishkenot Da’at, written permission to use the site.

The ministry also issued a closure order against Mishkenot Da’at on Tuesday, saying it was operating without a license and in violation of the law. The closure order will take effect in 30 days.

The Beit Shemesh municipality had authorized Mishkenot Da’at to use half the compound belonging to the School for Languages and Cultures. To enforce this decision, it even sent in guards and erected a metal divider down the middle of the schoolyard. But both the secular school and the Education Ministry opposed this decision.

On Monday, parents and teachers at the secular school held a partial strike to protest the decision to hand half the building over to a Haredi school. The parents, led by opposition members of the city council, also held a demonstration at the site against what they termed the Haredi “takeover” of Beit Shemesh.

The municipality said its decision was justified, since the city’s Haredi schools have a severe shortage of classrooms while the School for Languages and Cultures has empty classrooms. But the Education Ministry disagreed, and its director general, Michal Cohen, even threatened last week to cut off funding for the city’s schools if the municipality went ahead with the decision to give half the secular school to Mishkenot Da’at.