Jonathan Lis
April 18, 2008 - 6:27pm

Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski is planning to enlist world Jewry in a fund-raising drive for East Jerusalem's Arabs, in a bid to counter Hamas influence in local schools. The money will be used mainly for educational projects in the east of the capital, where an acute classroom shortage means many pupils end up in schools identified with Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

"It should be a national imperative that every East Jerusalem child has access to a state school," Lupolianski said Thursday .

Jerusalem officials said the drive is the first such attempt to enlist world Jewry to help the capital's Arab community.

"The state should finance schools. But we're losing many pupils because we lack hundreds of classrooms. Consequently, the pupils go to schools supervised by Fatah and Hamas instead. We may see the outcome in the years to come," Lupolianski said.

The mayor's first goal is to raise contributions for a science magnet school in the Ras al-Amud neighborhood for 1,000 outstanding students.

"As mayor of Jerusalem, which is also Israel's largest Arab city, It is my duty to provide schools for the children of 250,000 Arab residents," Lupolianski said.

Jerusalem lobby chair MK Colette Avital (Labor), who is collaborating with Lupolianski, has raised $3 million from Jewish British donors for schools in East Jerusalem.

"East Jerusalem's population is largely peace-seeking and loyal, but given the state of education, we have no assurance that this will be so in the future," he said.

"Our schools in the east part of the city are in demand due to their high standards. Their graduates contribute to Israel's economy," he said.

Municipal officials said that most Jewish communities prefer donating to "Zionist" projects.

Lupolianski has put together a portfolio to present to Jewish communities abroad during his next fund-raising trip next month. He is expected to tell them that building schools in East Jerusalem is an important national-Zionist task in order to preserve the city's image and maintain good relations with the Arab community.

Avital said Thursday that she tried to advance East Jerusalem's education system in various ways, but encountered numerous obstacles.

Three new schools are being opened in East Jerusalem's Ras al-Amud and Umm Lison neighborhoods, part of the city's NIS 66 million investment in new classrooms for the 2009-2010 school year. However, this will not be enough to meet the growing demand created by a high birthrate and migration from the territories.


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