Beit Shemesh removes partition between secular, Haredi pupils

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — The city of Beit Shemesh ordered the removal of a wall that had been set up inside a local elementary school to separate its secular and Orthodox pupils.

The corrugated galvanized iron wall was erected last week in the yard of the secular Safot VeTarbuyot school to separate its pupils from girls attending the Haredi Orthodox Mishekenot Da’at school, which recently began operating in a different section of the same building.

The wall sparked protests. Some parents told Army Radio it was infringement on their secular lifestyle in Beit Shemesh, which has a large and growing Haredi contingent.

Mayor Moshe Abutbul told Army Radio he ordered the removal of the partition on Thursday “as a gesture, which hopefully will help bring down another wall, which has grown taller and taller and divides the two parties.”

Haredi Orthodox schools separate girls and boys. One member of the city council was detained for questioning by police after writing with red paint on the wall: “Separation wall – a disgrace for Zionism.”

The city of Beit Shemesh -– a flashpoint for conflicts between Haredi and secular residents over the role of religion in the public sphere –- moved the Haredi girls into the secular school because of space considerations and against the orders of the Ministry of Education, Channel 2 reported.

On Thursday, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court declined to rule on the ministry’s motion for an injunction against the opening of the Haredi school inside the secular school. Judge Gad Arenberg said the matter was administrative and that his court was not equipped to deal with the issue.

A source from the ministry told Channel 2 his office intended to appeal to a higher court.