Haredi, Secular Children to Keep Sharing Beit Shemesh School

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'Separation wall, a badge of shame to Zionism' is written on the wall erected in a Beit Shemesh elementary school to separate religious and secular students, Sept. 1, 2014.Credit: Courtesy Daniel Goldman / Facebook

A school for ultra-Orthodox girls is to remain, for the time being, in a wing of a nonreligious school in Beit Shemesh, after the Jerusalem District Court yesterday rejected the Education Ministry’s request to issue an interim injunction against the continued use by the girls’ school of the campus.

The decision paves the way for the two schools to continue to share the campus, as prescribed by the Beit Shemesh municipality.

Last week a lower court, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, upheld the city’s decision to operate both the secular Safot Vetarbuyot and the Haredi Mishkenot Da’at school on the same campus. As a gesture, Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbul on Thursday ordered the removal of a barrier the city had erected to separate the two schools and which was controversial in itself.

Judge Arnon Darel took both the Beit Shemesh municipality and the Education Ministry to task over the issue. He said the city acted improperly when it decided unilaterally, just before the school year began and “without consulting the Education Ministry and if necessary asking for legal assistance against the Education Ministry,” to operate the Haredi school on the premises of the secular school.

But the judge was also critical of the Education Ministry, which he said for years had failed to cooperate with the city to find solutions for the city’s growing ultra-Orthodox population. Darel said the Haredi schools needed more classrooms, while the state secular school in the city were operating well below their physical capacities. He said it appeared that the necessary process of adapting to the changes in the schools as a result of demographic changes in the population was “far from moving ahead at the proper pace. This of course does not justify actions against law and procedure, but these things give additional context to the distress of some of the educational institutions,” Darel said.

The judge also said that considering the complex makeup of the Beit Shemesh population, “although there are disagreements between the parents this does not mean that the boys and the girls in the two schools should not live together, sharing resources, while protecting the unique character of each school.”

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