Tel Aviv University to Allocate Prayer Room on Campus After Muslim Students Protest

University folds after Israeli lawmakers approach administration following students' complaints that they were directed to pray at off-campus dorms

File photo: A building on Tel Aviv University's campus in 2017.
Ofer Vaknin

Tel Aviv University decided on Wednesday to allocate a specific room on campus for Muslim students to pray in, after students said earlier this month that the university was refusing to do so and was directing students to university dorms beyond the campus gates.

Muslim students told Haaretz that hundreds are in need of such a room throughout the year and that the room in the dorms is too far from campus.

For the past three years, the university has allocated a prayer room throughout Ramadan. It provided two rooms for that purpose during this year's Ramadan, the holy Muslim month of prayer and fast that will end on June 4. Administrators have clearly stated that these rooms are to be used for prayer temporarily and that they will be used for other purposes once Ramadan is over.

The university senate decided on Wednesday that a permanent prayer room should be allocated. According to administrators, "immediately after Ramadan, the university administration will meet with representatives of Muslim studens to discuss suitable options."

Kahol Lavan lawmaker Yael German, who approached university administrators about two weeks ago after being contacted by Muslim students, welcomed the move, saying: "Freedom of religion is a central part of  the principles of democracy."

According to the Council for Higher Education, there are about 3,000 Arab students at Tel Aviv University, although not all Arab students are Muslim.

Earlier this month, 28 Knesset members from the Labor Party, Meretz, Kahol Lavan, Hadash-Ta’al and Balad-United Arab List sent a letter to the university administration demanding that a permanent prayer room be allocated. The lack of such a facility forces many students to walk more than 15 minutes in each direction to pray several times a day, the letter said.