Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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9 Tammuz 5759 - June 23, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Charge Beit Shemesh Mayor Discriminates Against the Chareidi Community

by Betzalel Kahn

The mayor is following a policy of discrimination against the chareidim and seeks to establish ghettos for their community, claim chareidi officials in Beit Shemesh. These claims are a result of Mayor Dani Vaknin's continual abuse of the chareidi community of the city and his stubborn refusal to allocate areas for building chareidi schools.

Thousands of people bought apartments in Ramat Beit Shemesh Aleph, 50% of whom are chareidi, 45% of whom are National Religious and 5% of whom are secular. Recently about a hundred dunams of land were allocated for educational institutions for the new residents of the up-and-coming neighborhood. In a very baffling step, the mayor refused to allocate any of these lots for chareidi institutions. Only secular and government-religious schools are on the list of institutions which will be built, except for a negligible amount of classrooms and some very tiny areas which were granted to a few Torah institutions.

An additional scandal, which is linked to the educational institutions, involves 12 classrooms which stand empty in the chareidi district, yet Vaknin refuses to transfer them to chareidi institutions claiming that the construction budget is for the general educational system and not the chareidi one. Now, it seems as if the structure will be given in part to the secular schools system and in part to the government religious system, even though the building is located in the heart of the chareidi neighborhoods.

Near this building, also in the heart of the chareidi neighborhoods, are two empty buildings for kindergartens, including playgrounds and similar facilities. Nonetheless, Eitz Hadaas and Beis Yaakov are forced to rent apartments in the area for their kindergartens, since Vaknin refuses to transfer those buildings to the Chinuch Atzmai.

When the occupants move into the Beit Shemesh Aleph, half of its residents will be chareidi. However, as far as Mayor Dani Vaknin is concerned, the chareidim are simply nonexistent. All of the efforts of the UTJ representatives in the municipality to change this serious trend have been in vain

Last week, Rabbi Eliezer Greenbaum, UTJ's representative in the city council, sent a sharp letter to Vaknin, in which he demanded to receive a list of the institutions which will be built in the neighborhood and the sectors for which they are earmarked. In this letter, Rabbi Greenbaum said that according to the law, Vaknin was obligated to respond to the letter no later than three days after its receipt. However, so far no reply has been received.

It was learned that Vaknin instructed his senior secretaries in the municipality not to transmit any data to the UTJ representatives in the city, and to prevent them from receiving any information whatsoever on the topic.

Last week, Rabbi Greenbaum entered a meeting of the Authority for Public Structures held at city hall. As a member of the city council Rabbi Greenbaum is legally entitled to participate in such a meeting as an observer. However Vaknin demanded that Rabbi Greenbaum leave the room. "If you differ with me, you can file a complaint with the Interior Ministry," Vaknin brashly called out to Greenbaum.

A short while ago, Rabbi Greenbaum asked that the chareidi community's request for new classrooms for '99 be sent to the Education Ministry. However, the official in charge of this in the Beit Shemesh Municipality was reprimanded by Vaknin for having bypassed him and not informed him of the matter.

Senior activists in the city note that while Ramat Beit Shemesh Aleph was in its building stages, Vaknin declared before TV cameras: "I'll stop the chareidim with my very body."

The sense of betrayal of the chareidi community is compounded by the fact that they supported Vaknin in the recent municipal elections.

Yehuda Gur-Aryeh, the spokesman of the Beit Shemesh municipality relayed the following reaction: "The educational system in the city gives expression to various lifestyles and espouses the principle of equal rights for those of different world views and beliefs. The educational system is dependent on administrative arrangements and existing channels and patterns between the municipal establishment and the nationwide establishment.

"Each and every one of the various chareidi systems receives a nationwide quota of classes earmarked for them, and the authorities divide them among the various regions and districts, according to their considerations and the criteria which seem right to them."

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