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2-year old secular kids not allowed to mix with religious children of the same age

Jerusalem builds fence between secular, religious playgrounds

Nir Hasson, 7 March 2011

Secular parents demonstrated yesterday against a fence built on a Jerusalem playground to keep children from a secular nursery school from playing with peers at an ultra-Orthodox one.

The Jerusalem Municipality completed the fence yesterday, which drew criticism from some Orthodox parents as well.

Ultra-Orthodox supporters of the fence, in the Kiryat Yovel neighborhood, said it was there to keep their children from seeing other little boys in T-shirts and without skullcaps.

Kiryat Yovel has turned into a flashpoint for secular-religious tension in the past two years.

Secular residents claim that ultra-Orthodox groups are trying to expand into the neighborhood; hundreds of new ultra-Orthodox residents have moved in over the past few years, though they remain a minority.

Secular parents launched the Pashosh preschool at the start of the school year with the declared intent of making the neighborhood more attractive to young secular couples.

The school draws children from secular and religious families.

The school used to house two ultra-Orthodox preschools, and it shares a playground with another ultra-Orthodox facility.

Parents said children at Pashosh would play with children from the ultra-Orthodox school.

Yet ultra-Orthodox parents said they were displeased that the secular school was so close, and their representatives lobbied the municipality for a fence.

As a result, a municipal employee built one there on Friday. Later this week, the fence will be reinforced to make sure the children cannot see across it.

“That will create a cage feeling,” said Esti Kramer, whose daughter attends Pashosh. “The children got along and played games; it is regrettable that we adults separate them and show it’s impossible to live together in the same city and the same state.”

“Raising children in such a setting is very sad,” added Emanuel Shentar, whose daughter also attends Pashosh. “This was a normal neighborhood, and it’s painful to think what this fence says about our neighborhood and city. Where will this ghettoization end?”

Shentar, who wears a skullcap, emphasizes that Pashosh is not a secular preschool, but rather “an Israeli kindergarten, in the best sense of the word, that honors Shabbat and serves kosher food. What, more than that, does a 2-year-old need?”

“We are not surrounding the Pashosh preschool with a fence; we are surrounding ourselves,” said Aaron, a member of the ultra-Orthodox committee who asked not to be identified by his full name.

“We want our own education. Just as secular parents would not want Orthodox educators to intervene in the education of their children, we do not want secular nursery school teachers handling our children,” he added.

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