Haredi school in Beit Shemesh barred from using secular school building

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Jerusalem court issued a restraining order against a haredi Orthodox girls’ school in Beit Shemesh from using part of a secular school’s building.

The order issued Tuesday against the haredi school, Mishkenot Daat, was requested by the Ministry of Education, which also ordered it to close for operating without a license. The closure order takes effect in 30 days.

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A floor of the secular School for Languages and Culture building was separated for use by Mishkenot Daat, and city construction workers erected an 8-foot-high wall down the middle of the schoolyard.

The Beit Shemesh municipality said the decision to divide the school was due to a shortage of classrooms in haredi Orthodox schools. The Education Ministry did not give its permission to divide the school, calling the action “illegal” in a statement issued Monday.

Many parents of the secular school kept their children home from the first day of school due to the controversy. Other parents reportedly demonstrated outside the school.

In recent years Beit Shemesh, a city of 80,000 located just north of Jerusalem, has become a flashpoint for conflicts between Israel’s haredi Orthodox community and its secular and modern Orthodox populations. The school is located in the middle of the haredi Orthodox neighborhood of Ramat Beit Shemesh.