Ultra-Orthodox Parties Block Jerusalem Center for 'Lone Soldiers'

The Haredi city council members say they are only against the secular politicians trying to secure funding for the facility.

Jared Bernstein / Nefesh B' Nefesh

Ultra-Orthodox parties in Jerusalem have blocked the establishment of a center for soldiers who have no family in Israel — so-called lone soldiers — because the facility was to be run by a secular neighborhood administration often at odds with the ultra-Orthodox.

The funding provision, however, will be reintroduced at the next City Council meeting and Mayor Nir Barkat is said to be intent on passing it.

Late last week the city’s finance committee considered providing 170,000 shekels ($43,000) to the Yovlim neighborhood administration, which operates in the Kiryat Yovel quarter. The funds were earmarked for the center for lone soldiers — often young Jews who move to Israel to join the army. There are around 200 lone soldiers in Jerusalem alone.

But the ultra-Orthodox councilmen objected on the grounds that the community administration was a key player in secular efforts.

“We are not against lone soldiers. We are against the Yovlim administration, which ignores the 25 percent of its residents who are not entitled to receive money from the administration,” said Councilman Yitzhak Pindrus of United Torah Judaism, apparently referring to Kiryat Yovel’s ultra-Orthodox community.

“Every Friday I myself host lone soldiers, but we are firm in our position that as long as [Yovlim] doesn’t change its ways, we won’t transfer appropriations to it.”

The funding was supported by council members from the Hitorerut, Yerushalmim and Meretz parties but opposed by the ultra-Orthodox.

Committee chairman Shmuel Shkedi of the right-wing United Jerusalem party abstained. Two Barkat allies did not attend the meeting and the spending was blocked.

“They crossed an ethical red line — this is politics of the lowest kind,” said Hitorerut Councilman Ofer Berkowitz. “I think they’re embarrassing the ultra-Orthodox community. I don’t think the ultra-Orthodox would want to hurt lone soldiers.”