How Many New Schools Has Israel Built in East Jerusalem? Depends Who’s Counting

Statistics released by the municipality last week don’t correspond with data recently given by various council departments to a local NGO.

Eyal Warshavsky / BauBau

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat likes to boast about his administration’s investment in primarily Arab East Jerusalem, but statistics released by the municipality last week don’t correspond with data recently given by various council departments to a local NGO.

According to the municipality, there will be 112 new classrooms in East Jerusalem elementary schools and 68 new secondary school classrooms when the school year starts Monday. But according to data given to Jerusalem nonprofit Ir Amim, there will be only 38 new classrooms in East Jerusalem, with another 44 under construction and some 400 in the planning stages.

The municipality also said there would be five new schools opening in East Jerusalem. However, according to the Ir Amim report, there will be just the one new school, in the Beit Safafa neighborhood.

The municipality said it hadn’t meant five new schools built from scratch, but that various residential buildings had been rented and turned into new learning facilities.

These schools are relatively small: one has nine classes, another eight classes, and the third – a cluster of kindergartens for autistic children in Abu Tor – has only six classes.

Similarly, the differences in the number of classrooms cited stems from the fact that most new classrooms claimed by the municipality were not newly built, but converted rooms rented in residential buildings.

The biggest gap lies in the number of classrooms Barkat claims to have built during the six years of his administration. The city claims Barkat has built six times more classrooms in East Jerusalem than predecessors Uri Lupolianski and Ehud Olmert. But Ir Amim claimed that, over the past six years, new classrooms in East Jerusalem have been built at a rate of only 36 per year – similar to that under Lupolianski, although better than under Olmert.

Ir Amim admits there has been an improvement in the rate of planning new classrooms for future years.

There will be 89,543 pupils studying in East Jerusalem this year, comprising 36 percent of all Jerusalem’s pupils.

However, there are over 22,000 children and teens not registered in any local school, public or private. At least some are presumed to be studying outside Jerusalem, but no one seems to know where the rest will be.

The municipality said it “regrets that Ir Amim once again, as every year, chooses to recycle the same distorted and divorced-from-reality report, in an effort to get some media exposure. The data given to Ir Amim was accurate up to that date. Since then, more schools and classes were added and approved. As such, the updated information is as stated in the municipality’s announcement.”