Caravans given to Chabad school
Caravans given to Chabad schoolLeah Aharoni

Despite the fact that the Chabad educational institutions are among the oldest ones in the Jerusalem-area town of Tel Zion, they are the only ones still housed in caravans.

Two years ago, a Health Ministry representative declared the caravans for the girls' school unfit for use. Last year, the caravans were given a temporary permit, on condition they undergo basic renovations. This was never done.

The caravans are rusty and moldy, with dangerous electric wiring. Over the course of the 2016-2017 school year, various portions of them - including a ceiling, and a window - fell on the girls, causing bodily harm. During the winter and summer, the girls suffer from extreme weather conditions because of the difficulty in heating and cooling the caravans.

On the first day of the 2016-2017 school year, the Chabad preschool - which functions under the Education Ministry - was moved from its permanent building to caravans and old containers, so that another preschool could open an additional class.

As a result, the preschool lost its license from the Education Ministry, and its teachers worked from September until March without receiving a salary.

During the winter, the Council loaned the preschool money and made a few repairs, but it was not enough to ensure the preschool's proper functioning, and the teacher ended up working nearly on her own, teaching 40 children of three age groups.

After school ended in June 2017, the Binyamin Regional Council decided to move the Chabad school's caravans to another location, in order to construct a public building at their current site.

Instead of bringing in new caravans, as the Council's chairman promised, the Council moved the moldy caravans to a site at which a new school will be constructed next year. The basic conditions of the caravans will remain unchanged, and the new location is not large enough to contain the 170 children currently learning in the Chabad school. There will be no courtyard for children to play in during recess, and there is no room for future growth.

Last week, two weeks before the 2017-2018 school year is scheduled to begin, the Binyamin Regional Council announced that the preschool's building would not be theirs, since a private preschool needed the site. The Chabad preschool does not have an alternative location.

Leah Aharoni is not Chabad, but two of her children learn in the Tel Zion's Chabad school.

"These steps were taken in order to create an inequality between the Chabad schools and the other schools in Tel Zion and Kokhav Yaakov," Aharoni said. "They want to encourage families to leave the schools, and discourage new students from enrolling in it."

"What actually happens, though, is that 170 children suffer from suboptimal conditions, which include bodily harm and emotional stress."

Betty Barnes also sends her girls to Tel Zion's Chabad school.

"It's so much pain, suffering, and frustration for us. Even last year, when the Binyamin Regional Council gave the school caravans to serve as classrooms, the situation was severe. It was cold in the winter and hot in the summer, and the caravans didn't have proper heating or cooling systems," Barnes said.

"The winds and rain penetrated the buildings, and the tiny courtyard did not even offer normal, safe, conditions.

"The biggest hardship of all is the awful feeling that no one really cares about us or wants to help us. No one recognizes the Chabad school's right to exist and to function like every other school.

"Are our children second-class citizens just because of the school we chose to provide them with a quality education in line with our values?"

Tel Zion's Chabad school was founded 13 years ago, and includes a boys' Talmud Torah school, a girls' school, and separate preschools for both genders - all under the auspices of the Education Ministry. The school serves 170 children from Tel Zion, neighboring Kokhav Ya'akov, other towns in the Binyamin Region, and Ma'aleh Efrayim. The school services many Chabad emissaries in Judea and Samaria, with some of the children traveling 40 minutes by public transportation in order to attend the school.

The school is known for its investment of education, high academic level, and its ability to instill the love of one's fellow into each student.

The parents have several times turned to the Binyamin Regional Council, but have not received a satisfactory answer.