Barak-Bibi Freeze Yesha Schools

Building freeze: Children in urban cities returned to well-equipped schools while thousands of Yesha kids make do with makeshift structures.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, | updated: 11:16

Children in makeshift caravan
Children in makeshift caravan
Israel news photo: Shomron Liasion Council

The government building freeze in Judea and Samaria forced thousands of children to start the school year Tuesday morning in makeshift buildings. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has not signed papers for new schools despite approval from the Education Ministry.

“The government is discriminating between children elsewhere in Israel and those in Judea and Samaria,” said Yochai Dimri, director of education in the Shomron Regional Council. “The Defense Ministry is creating obstacles even though the law requires that students be provided with reasonable buildings.”

Dimri said that Defense Minister Barak, on the day before schools opened, gave the regional council permission to place four temporary “caravans” (mobile homes without wheels), but that 10 others are on the waiting list. He pointed out it will take several weeks before the four temporary buildings can be hooked up to the town infrastructure and repaired for use.

The Netanyahu government’s building freeze, imposed under pressure from the American government, means that thousands of schoolchildren in dozens of caravans are without a proper school, Dimri said. “The students are not in one building, creating problems for discipline during recess, and the caravans do not provide proper classroom space for learning,” he explained.

Children are learning in eight caravans in the community of Yakir, in northern Samaria, 12 caravans in Shaarei Tikva, slightly east of the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, five caravans in Elon Moreh in northern Samaria, and another two in Tel Menashe.

“There is nothing to talk about concerning requests for permanent buildings,” Dimri added. He explained that bureaucratic process for permission to place a structure in Judea and Samaria requires three steps at different agencies, and each step requires additional approval from the Defense Ministry.

In the town of Tekoa in eastern Gush Etzion, southeast of Jerusalem, regional council education official Yitzchak Bar-Osher said Tuesday that it took him six weeks to obtain permission from Defense Minister Barak to allow two caravans for schoolchildren.

In the community of Tena-Omarim in the southern Hevron Hills, the regional council obtained all of the necessary approvals for one temporary structure, but Barak has refused to give the final okay.

A similar situation in Elon Moreh resulted in two pre-fabricated structures being put into place after most of the approvals had been secured, but the Civil Lands Administration removed the structures because Barak’s signature was lacking.

         Landau and Mesika at Yakir school               Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau, visiting the Yakir school in northern Samaria, accused the Defense Ministry of systematic discrimination and harassment. "It is an apparent that there are efforts to make life difficult for [Jews] in Samaria,” he said. “A civilized and cultured state which is concerned with human rights cannot accept this freeze."

Samaria Council chairman Gershon Mesika, who accompanied Landau on the tour, demanded that the government "remove the students from political gains."