The Jerusalem municipal council has given the green light on Wednesday for the construction of a yeshiva in a predominantly Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem.
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According to the blueprints, the Ohr Somayach yeshiva will occupy a nine-story building at the heart of the neighborhood.
Sheikh Jarrah has become a symbol of the Palestinian popular struggle in Jerusalem in recent years, and a flash point where local residents and left-wing activists have protested the entry of Jewish settlers into the neighborhood and the evictions of Palestinian families from their homes. About 10 families are now waging legal battles to overturn eviction orders against them, which were issued at the request of Jewish building and land owners, mostly the heirs of residents of the neighborhood who lived there before 1948 and were forced out of their homes.
The plan for the new yeshiva has been approved by the Jerusalem Municipal Planning and Building Committee about six months ago, but councilmember and Meretz faction leader Yosef (Pepe) Alalu asked for the municipal council to debate the decision.
In his appeal, Alalu said the plan has been passed despite the severe shortage in public construction in the neighborhood, such as welfare and health offices, schools, culture institutions and sports stadiums. Despite the shortage, Alalu said, the committee decided to use the empty lot for a "nine-story yeshiva for the non-local population."
Following a short and stormy debate between the Meretz councilmembers and rightwing activist and Jerusalem United councilmember Aryeh King, the plan was passed by a large majority of rightist and haredi council members against the two Meretz ones – Allelu and Lora Verton. Members of the secular factions in the council and coalition partners were not present for the vote.
King congratulated the decision and posted on his Facebook page that the plan has been approved despite the "racist protest by some in the opposition () together we'll continue to judify Jerusalem, boost its security and establish yeshivas where Torah will be studied, and the children shall return within their borders."