School entrance locked 'for modesty reasons'
Teachers at Kiryat Gat high school say ever since haredi institution was built nearby, visitors forced to enter through side gate
Ruth Margolin • Ynet
Teachers and students of the Rabin High School in the southern city of Kiryat Gat are being forced to enter the building through a side gate "for modesty reasons".
According to the Israel Teachers Union, a security guard stationed at the school's main entrance has been instructed by the municipality to lock the gate and inform visitors that they must enter the institution from its side gate.
Female teachers say they were told the main entrance is not safe, but they believe the real reason is pressures exerted by ultra-Orthodox elements.
"The haredi institution appealed to the mayor and demanded that we would not be allowed to enter, as the staff at the haredi school, which is located opposite the entrance, does not feel comfortable seeing women in immodest clothing," one of the teachers said.
She and her colleagues claimed that Mayor Aviram Dahari caved in to pressures exerted by ultra-Orthodox elements in the City Council. "It happens every few years, but so far we have held battles and succeeded," she said. "But they have caused him to give in."
The high school was built 16 years ago, and its name was changed after former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination. Several years ago, the haredi community began setting up caravans opposite its main entrance in favor of an ultra-Orthodox educational institution called Slonim.
"On the second year of their activity they demanded that the main entrance of the secular school be removed to a difference place," one of the teachers said. "Now they have found an excuse: The entrance is in a place which is not safe for the students."
According to teachers, the claims that the entrance is unsafe are groundless. "This is nonsense," one of the instructors said. "This is their attempt to take over the city, and we won't let it happen."
The Rabin school's teaching staff asked representatives of the Teachers Union to intervene. Yaffa Ben Shalom, the Teachers Union's secretary, expressed her anger over the municipality's conduct.
"This time they have managed to defeat Dahari," she said. "This is simply impossible. We informed the teachers that they would enter the school from the main entrance with their head held up high. Otherwise, they won't teach there at all."
'This is not Torah's way'
According to Ben Shalom, the education system cannot be run in such a manner because of a handful of extremists. "I myself am a religious woman. This is not Torah's way. This is no way to behave. They will not run our education system. They build their school temporarily, while the Rabin school was and will continue to exist there."
Elements in the municipality told Ben Shalom that the move was an attempt to safeguard the children, but she says this isn't true.
"It's wrong to say that this entrance is unsafe. This is a cynical exploitation of the situation, and we won't let them hurt the teachers' honor. They will continue entering and leaving proudly," she stated.
The Slonim School's principal, Rabbi Meir Erlich, said in response, "I don't give interviews to the press. All I can say is that the problem involves the entire haredi neighborhood, which is comprised of 300 families."
The Education Ministry said in response, "We examined the matter with the Kiryat Gat Municipality and were told that the school's main entrance has been closed and that the school's visitors have been directed to the side gate for safety reasons. According to the municipality, the traffic route near the school's main entrance constitutes a safety risk to those visiting the school."
The Kiryat Gat Municipality has yet to comment on the report.
[Hat Tip: Seymour.]