Haifa: synagogues out, kindergartens in

Haifa: synagogues out, kindergartens in

Municipality plan to clear out prayer houses is decried by religious communities

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Locked synagogue door (illustration) (phot credit: by Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Locked synagogue door (illustration) (phot credit: by Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Haifa municipality announced on Sunday that it will evict synagogues from its properties in order to establish kindergartens in their place, Maariv reported Wednesday.

The move comes to meet the increased demand for municipal kindergartens brought on by the government’s adoption of a report that calls for free education for toddlers.

The plan has caused an outcry among the city’s religious community and members of many affected synagogues said that they will ignore the orders.

The Trachtenberg report, adopted by the government last year, means that municipal authorities must provide kindergartens for resident families free of charge and the expected surge in demand in Haifa will far outstrip the availability of current services. Maariv reported that the municipality sent letters to all synagogues housed in municipal buildings that had been previously approved for use as a kindergarten. Similar eviction notices were also received by private kindergartens and nonprofit organizations that use approved municipal buildings.

The municipality said it will gain 98 kindergartens from all the evictions and intends to build another 20 new centers to meet demands. Haifa authorities are concerned that lack of adequate education facilities is one of the reasons that young couples leave the city. However, the municipality said, it would begin by evicting the private kindergartens and nonprofit organizations and only act against the synagogues if absolutely necessary.

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