{BlissNotes} Cleaning Up Jerusalem

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Dr. Philip Bliss

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Apr 26, 2010, 5:46:56 PM4/26/10
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26 April 2010 IRAC Website|Blog||Contact

Dear Friends of IRAC,

We’re cleaning up Jerusalem – one case at a time. 

Last week, on the eve of Yom Ha’atzmaut, IRAC won a major case in the Jerusalem District Court.  We put an end to the Jerusalem municipality’s practice of providing exclusive additional funds to religious schools controlled by ultra-Orthodox political parties.

The Jerusalem municipality’s allocation of millions and millions of shekels to Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) schools – at the expense of all other Jerusalem schools, especially when there are so many in dire need of financial support – was yet another example of how the Haredim use political power to secure government resources and win disproportionate benefits for their own communities.

We argued that such funding was undeniably discriminatory, violated the principle of equality, and was designed to appease a narrow interest group.  The Jerusalem municipality disregarded the legitimate needs of hundreds of schools around the city, and instead gave preference to two religious political parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, who are influential both within the Jerusalem city council and the national government coalition.

The misuse of city funds was also – and we argued as such – a blatantly illegal move, so much so that the city council’s own legal advisor refused to represent the case; instead, Mayor Nir Barkat’s council had to hire a private lawyer.  

As Tali Aviv, a lawyer on IRAC’s excellent legal team, put it, “while other schools suffer from under-funding, the Haredi schools get extra.  And in a city like Jerusalem, where there is so much diversity, it’s even worse for the city council to favor only one kind of school – there’s no pluralism in that.”

IRAC’s victory is an important one.  It will narrow the gap between privileged and underprivileged schools; other municipalities across Israel will use the Jerusalem District Court’s decision for guidance with similar cases of their own – and it is now more difficult for other authorities to set discriminatory criteria that favor ultra-Orthodox schools. 

L’Shalom,

Anat Hoffman

P.S. We’ve extended the deadline for our 2010-2011 Fellowship until May 2nd, 2010.  Click here for more details.

P.P.S. I’ve been in Chicago since Thursday, where I spoke at a national ARZA gathering.  Thank you to all ARZA members – if you’re not a member of ARZA, you should be.  I’ll be speaking in Chicago-area congregations all this week, and hope to get a chance to meet with all of you who can make it.  
 


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