Jerusalem City Budget for Houses of Worship Goes Only to Synagogues

Criteria states that money may be given to applicants who intend to 'establish a synagogue.'

Emil Salman

It seems that Jerusalem spends its entire budget for houses of worship on synagogues. Last week, during a session of the city council subcommittee that allocates such funds, a document listing the criteria for city funding of houses of worship came up for discussion.

The document states that the group applying for such funding must be “a corporation registered according to law acting to establish a synagogue.”

The remainder of the document also refers only to synagogues and does not mention the establishment of building houses of worship for any religion other than Judaism.

Jerusalem allocates about 5 million shekels ($1.3 million) over two years for this purpose.

City councilman Yoav Bakshi-Yeivin, representing the Hitoeretu Yerushalayim (Wake Up Jerusalem) party, asked during the meeting about houses of worship of other religions in the city.

An official from the city’s religious buildings department said he does not deal with such issues and referred Bakshi-Yeivin to Mayor Nir Barkat’s adviser on Arab affairs, David Koren.

City council members from right-wing parties were surprised by the question and said the building of mosques and churches in the city should not be encouraged.

After the meeting, Bakshi-Yeivin approached Koren on the matter. Koren said in response that he had never dealt with the issue.

“I would like to believe that after thousands of years of the existence of the city of Jerusalem, the municipality knows that a number of churches, mosques and other houses of worship have grown here,” said Bakshi-Yeivin. He asked why there are no criteria for funding other religions and why no city department is responsible for the houses of worship for all religions.

In a statement of response, the Jerusalem municipality said: “There has been no change in the regulations concerning Jewish houses of worship. The city has not received any requests for support for non-Jewish houses of worship, and if [such requests] are received they will be considered.”