Israeli Military Closes Access to School for Palestinian Children


Maria Chiara Rioli for the Alternative Information Center (AIC) | 25/08/2010 |

On the same day that Israeli human rights associations Ir Amim and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) released a report denouncing the lack of classrooms in East Jerusalem, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem announces that children of the kindergarten of Bethany (Shayyah) “can no more reach their school through the small opening in the Separation Wall, adjacent to the school.”

The news came after a meeting between Apostolic Nunzio, Msgr Antonio Franco, the sisters and the Israeli military authorities of the area.

After construction of the Separation Wall in the East Jerusalem neighbourhoods of Ras al-Amoud and Shayyah, the Israeli army prevented children from the nearby West Bank Azaryah area from reaching their school. During the last academic year, after pressure by the Combonian sisters who run the school, Israeli military authorities allowed the fifty children attending the school to pass through a small door built in the Wall twice a day, to enter in and go out from their classrooms.

The future of the children who will start schoolin the next few days appears uncertain. If the army doesn’t find or allow another way of access to the school, it will be closed. The children could be forced to make a lo15 km detour by bus, but even this possibility has to be approved by the Israeli army and negotiations are still pending.

Recent events testify how education represents a sensitive issue for the Israeli government and army. A few days ago, Israel’s Ministry of Education ordered kindergarten teachers to not attend a seminar on the topic of introducing the Nakba to curriculum across the country. Today the report “Failed Grade. Palestinian Education System in East Jerusalem 2010” issued by Ir Amim and ACRI states that the education system in East Jerusalem remains short of 1,000 classrooms for Palestinian students. As denounced in the report, “despite promises given in legal proceedings from 2001 to build 644 classrooms by 2011, the construction of classrooms has proceeded very slowly.

An analysis of the construction figures by Ir Amim together with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel from August 2010 shows that the shortage is not going to be reduced in the coming years”. The report continues that “by the end of 2010 the construction of a comprehensive girls’ school in Ras al-Amud is scheduled to be completed with 39 classrooms. In 2011 another 42 classrooms are supposed to be built but completion of their construction by that time is not guaranteed.” The associations highlight that “even if all of the planned classrooms are built, a total of only 338 classrooms will have been built by the end of 2011, which are at most 52% of the classrooms the authorities promised to build. It should also be noted that the classrooms under construction do not meet all of the needs of the system, and this was also stressed by the authorities, who claimed they were unable to build enough classrooms to address the historic classroom shortage.”