The Jerusalem Municipality approved the building of a yeshiva in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah on Wednesday.
Although the nine-story,10,000-square-meter complex is to be built on an empty plot of land that mostly belongs to Israel’s Land Authority, some politicians are concerned that the planned construction violates the status quo between Jewish and Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem.
The new building for the Ohr Somayach yeshiva had already been approved by the Planning and Building Committee earlier in 2014, but a final hearing was held Wednesday in the municipal council at at the request of Meretz chairman and Jerusalem city councilman Yosef Alalu. Ultra-Orthodox and religious committee members approved the decision by a large margin, despite protests by Alalu.
The increasing Jewish presence in the predominantly Arab neighborhood has heightened political tensions and turned the neighborhood into a symbol of the Palestinian struggle in Jerusalem.
Activists and local residents have protested the influx of Jewish residents into the neighborhood, and the expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes, following a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that dozens of Palestinian homes in Sheikh Jarrah belonged to Jewish owners who lived there prior to 1948 and were to be returned to the heirs of those owners.
“There is nothing more joyous than to build yeshivas in the land of Israel, particularly in Jerusalem and especially since this specific project has faced opposition by racist individuals,” city councilman Aryeh King told news website Kikar Hashabbat.
Alalu, who also spoke to Kikar Hashabbat, said that Wednesday’s decision was not the final word, and he is not ruling out taking the matter to court.
“Look, we’re lacking 2,000 classrooms in East Jerusalem schools, and 1,000 classrooms for Haredi schools, and people want to build a yeshiva in the middle of an Arab neighborhood? What kind of logic is that?” Alalu told the website.