Bayit Vegan: Talmidim Confront Police Who Came to Take Down Illegal Portions of the Yeshiva

(Tuesday, March 29th, 2016 12:15 PM)

psHundreds of talmidei yeshivos took to the streets on Monday night, confronting police and city officials who arrived to carry out a court order to take down illegal additions to a yeshiva building. There were talmidim from Yeshivas Pnei Shmuel and other community yeshivos. A number of talmidim were detained for questioning by police. The talmidim set garbage bins ablaze and blocked traffic as they confronted police.

Rosh Yeshiva Rav Wolfson Shlita, despite being unwell of late, heard what was taking place and headed to the yeshiva. He was alarmed over the chilul Hashem and gathered talmidim to speak with them. The rabbonim were not pleased with the actions of talmidim, sending them home.

This saga has been ongoing for at least a year, pertaining to illegal additions to a yeshiva under the leadership of Rabbi Neuwirth Shlita. The yeshiva, Pnei Shmuel, is located at 20 HaPisgah Street in the Bayit Vegan neighborhood of the capital. According to Jerusalem City Hall, some 1000 meters of the multistory building have been added illegally and in some of the construction, materials that are prohibited were used, materials that pose a health threat to the area.

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R’ Yehuda Solovechik, who is a personal emissary of Rav Neuwirth dealing with the matter with City Hall explained to Kol Chai Radio that talks have been ongoing with the involvement chareidi councilmen.

Each side, the yeshiva and City Hall, accuse the other of distorting the facts in the case.

Solovechik explains for one thing, there are two types of demolition orders, court-ordered and administrative. In this case, there have been five rulings by the local administrative and district courts, but the demolition order is administrative. This means the city has the ability and the authority to exhibit flexibility as opposed to a court-ordered demolition, which leaves no wiggle room. He adds the local planning board has already begun addressing the matter of retroactively approving the additional construction and the matter has been passed for ‘taba’ land registration approval. Hence, the yeshiva feels it is a matter of time and since the demolition order does permit the city to wait out the process, it is alarming to realize officials prefer to take down 1,000 meters of a yeshiva building.

Solovechik adds that in the past 6-7 years, Rabbi Neuwirth’s yeshivos have continued growing and today there are over 800 talmidim and they need a place to reside.

Kol Chai:

Can you explain to me what is really going on for not a single chareidi councilman agreed to speak to us on the matter today? Perhaps they are not on your side, aware the yeshiva intentionally broke the law and there is nothing they can do?

Solovechik:

It is not so. I do not know why they will not speak to you but the planning board as I explained has already begun the processes of legalizing the illegal areas.

Jerusalem Councilman Aryeh King:

When I heard what was going on last night I headed over there and I saw what was taking place. Permit me to begin my remarks by stressing as one who has been working with the planning board in the municipality for many years, I am firmly against illegal construction.

In fact, when I returned home late last night I saw the two mosques from my window. They are not guilty of an illegal floor or illegal additions but the entire mosques are illegal. I am equally opposed to selective enforcement of the law and reject a policy of being rigid to the last detail regarding law breaking in the Jewish sector while systematically turning a blind eye to illegal construction in the Arab sector.

City Hall:

Officials arrived to raze the top floor, about 350 meters of illegal construction that contains dangerous substances that pose a hazard to the area. in total there is about 1000 illegal square meters that have been added on to the building.

King:

One has to see the conditions. To the credit of the yeshiva, in line with an agreement reached with city officials, it removed a portion of the illegal top floor on its own. Now when bochrim eat on a rainy day they are exposed to the elements. Conditions are deplorable.

City Hall:

The yeshiva fails to comply with the agreement by which it will destroy the illegal construction. This compels us to come tonight and destroy it ourselves in line with multiple court rulings. We waited to give the yeshiva ample time to comply with the agreement to take down the illegal areas on its own but it failed to do so.

King:

It is difficult to understand why the city will not exhibit the minutest measure of flexibility for a yeshiva when it totally ignores illegal construction in the eastern capital.

Solovechik:

The city is simply distorting the facts. We have done what we agreed to do and clearly the city, backed by the Mayor’s Office, prefers to destroy the yeshiva and leave many talmidim without a place to live.

City Hall:

There are multiple building violations including a floor constructed of a paneling material, about 350 meters. An additional illegal addition on the ground floor parking level and yet other violations. The illegal construction reaches about 1000 square meters. The yeshiva has broken every agreement and only removed a part of the addition to the roof but failed to remove the remaining roof portion and an entire other floor.

Solovechik:

There is no good will here as the city planning board is working to legalize the entire matter and it is just a matter of a few more weeks or months. The city could sit back and permit this to occur but it appears someone wants to tear down the additions in the yeshiva rather than wait.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

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