In an instance of overt discrimination just days before the 5766 school year opens, Beit Shemesh officials have not allocated any facilities for the nearly 400 children enrolled in Bais Yaakov kindergartens in the Ramat Beit Shemesh Alef neighborhood warned Rabbi Yitzchok Goldknopf, the director of the kindergarten chain, in an urgent letter to Mayor Daniel Vaknin. If the chain does not receive facilities for the hundreds he will turn to the courts for legal assistance, he adds in the letter.
The children's parents said they are organizing a campaign to demand their children's rights to suitable facilities based on the Mandatory Education Law, rather than making do with bomb shelters and various apartments in the neighborhood. "It is hard to escape feelings this is a case of deliberate discrimination by city officials against the Torah education of the Bais Yaakov movement," said one parent.
In his letter Rabbi Goldknopf notes in Ramat Beit Shemesh Alef (Nachal Kishon, Nachal Dolev and Ha'eizor Streets) alone nearly 336 students enrolled for the 5766 year and that the bomb shelters and apartments used as classrooms until now are no longer available.
In a similar battle shortly before the 5765 school year the city eventually promised to place two classrooms on Rechov Nachal Mishmar at the kindergartens' disposal, yet to this day the promise has not been met.
Parents claim the lack of proper classroom facilities prevents them from receiving the discount available for kindergarten students. They say children enrolling for mandatory kindergarten (gan chovah) applied at the municipal enrollment stations as required and the city must provide facilities just as it provides even for preschool (gan terem chovah—preschool) students at government kindergartens.
The Parents' Board rejected an attempt by city officials to silence the campaign by claiming there are classrooms available to them in chareidi sections of Beit Shemesh. "We paid good money to purchase apartments in Ramat Beit Shemesh Alef and we have the legal and legitimate right to receive education services and facilities in our neighborhood," said the Parents' Board.
Rabbi Goldknopf praised the concerted efforts of Degel HaTorah City Council Representative Rabbi Moshe Montag, who has worked extensively to promote the kindergarten chain, and said a court petition against the city is currently under consideration.