Security fears keep Jerusalem high schools shuttered

Strike stretches into second day as parents and city hall row with Treasury and Public Security Ministry over funding guards

Illustrative photo of high school students (Maya Levin/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of high school students (Maya Levin/Flash90)

Jerusalem’s high schools were set to strike for the second consecutive day on Friday over a lack of funding for security guards.

The closure was called after Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and the city’s parents association failed to reach an agreement with the Finance and Public Security ministries, the Hebrew-language Maariv website reported Thursday.

Some 400 Jerusalem schools are defined by police as in need of permanent security, but declining budgets in recent years have cut short the number of hours in which guards are present at the schools.

Guards finish their shifts at 1:30 p.m., the municipality’s Education Authority said in a Wednesday letter to high school principals.

But “in most of the educational institutions in the city, classes continue until 4:30 p.m.,” the municipality letter explained.

Those three hours represent “a gap of over 20 million shekels in the security budget,” the city said.

Israeli security forces and forensic police inspect the site of a stabbing attack in Jerusalem on October 8, 2015. (AFP/AHMAD GHARABLI)
Israeli security forces and forensic police inspect the site of a stabbing attack in Jerusalem on October 8, 2015. (AFP/AHMAD GHARABLI)

With the city saying it is unable to find the missing funds in the municipal budget, Barkat and Parents Association chairman Paz Cohen announced jointly on Wednesday the start of an open-ended school strike in the capital.

For state schools, the strike includes grades seven to 12. In the Haredi education system, only the girls’ high schools will be on strike. In the Arab school system, those schools that have no security guards at all will be joining the strike.

The Thursday strike was only a first step, Barkat and Cohen said on Wednesday. The strike would expand to include elementary schools and other institutions if the funds for adequate security were not forthcoming from the Treasury and Public Security Ministry, they said.

Jerusalem has been rocked in recent weeks by a wave of violence, including a series of stabbings and rock throwing attacks over the last several days.

Earlier Thursday, a Jerusalem yeshiva student, 25, was seriously wounded in a stabbing attack in northern Jerusalem. A second Israeli, apparently a light rail security guard, was very lightly injured after wrestling with the attacker in an attempt to prevent him from fleeing the scene. On Saturday night, Palestinians murdered two Israelis in the Old City of Jerusalem and injured a third, while an Israeli teenager was stabbed and moderately injured in a separate attack.

On Wednesday, a teenage Palestinian woman stabbed an Israeli man near the Lions’ Gate of the Old City and was then shot at the scene by her victim who was armed with a pistol.

Palestinians have reacted violently over allegations that Israel has been seeking to curtail Muslim rights at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, which houses the al-Aqsa Mosque, and to alter longstanding rules that ban Jews from praying there. The Israeli government has repeatedly denied the allegations, asserting that it is not planning to change the status quo at the flashpoint compound holy to both Jews and Muslims.

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