After playing together for six months, haredi, secular children separated by fence at Jerusalem kindergartens; secular father slams 'catastrophe,' says site that previously offered hopes for coexistence 'turned into ghetto'
The Jerusalem Municipality on Friday began constructing a separation fence between two kindergartens, an ultra-Orthodox and a secular one, highlighting the complex relations between the different communities living in the capital.
The children of the two adjacent kindergartens have been playing happily together for six months, and were somewhat unsettled by the mayhem upon arriving at the site Friday morning. The municipality plans to cover the fence with blue cloth so the children will no longer be able to see each other.
"We always educate them to love all children, even those who are different, and even if they look, dress, or worship differently, because we are all equal," Mika Lavi, a teacher at the secular kindergarten, told Ynet.
"This is how it was these past months. The children played together and no one was identified by his belief or dress. I thought this place represented hope for something better, but I guess the municipality thinks differently. I am against all types of separation. If fences are erected between us how will we get to know the other side?"
The secular side of the kindergarten also received the short end of the stick, getting less than half of the area and losing the sandbox and fire hydrant to the other side.
Moshe Gabriel, father to a boy in the secular kindergarten, was outraged.
"This is a catastrophe. I signed my son up to this place because there is a religious kindergarten here. I myself am a religious man and a yeshiva graduate. I wanted my son to see harmony between the two sides," he said.
"There was great potential for cooperation in this place but instead it has been made into a ghetto. It's like the separation fence between Jews and Arabs, except there is no terror here, there should be only peace." No one had notified parents of the plan, he added
On the haredi side, views were divided. "I don't want my son to see you scantily clad," one ultra-Orthodox mother told a secular kindergarten teacher. "Soon summer will arrive and your clothes will start to come off. It's very sad, but these are the tendencies on your side.
"My son is almost three-years-old, he understands things, and I don't want him to see your kids walking around without a kippah. It's not because I don't respect you; it's because I'm worried about him," the mother said.
However, Yair, a parent to a child at the haredi kindergarten, said he doesn't like the fence.
"There are indeed differences in ideology and disagreements, but I don't understand the considerations behind this move," he said. "It's only a kindergarten, not much can happen anyway. When people grow older, the differences are a little more prominent… but in this case I don't understand what's happening here and why."
Jerusalem City Hall issued the following statement: "Following a shortage of structures to be used as kindergartens at the neighborhood, and in order to meet the needs of all students in the area, both secular and haredi, the city's appropriation committee decided to divide the existing building so it serves both haredi kindergartens and the parents of secular children in the neighborhood. The fence was erected based on broad vision that addresses the various needs of each community."
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