Four years after it was discovered that students in an Ashkelon school were being exposed to radiation due to a nearby power line, a state-religious school has been ordered closed.
Mayor Itamar Shimoni made the decision after a series of meetings brought to light the urgency of the situation for the students and the staff as well as the inability of the site to meet new, tougher radiation standards set by the Environmental Protection Ministry to protect Israeli schoolchildren.
“I predict that if we are not given a proper response, within a few short years you will have a beautiful structure–but no students,” principal of the Neve Ilan school Ariella Elbaz wrote in a plea to the Ashkelon municipality in August.
“Several parents have withdrawn their children from the school,” she added. “Other parents continue to leave their children in the school because they are not ready to abandon the notion of state-funded religious education, but they come to us with concerns about the matter all the time.”
Elbaz toured the school with Shimoni and other school and city leaders, who ultimately decided that the entire structure must be closed.
“I know that the problem has been passed back and forth through City Hall since 2009, but I’m not here to assign blame or look backwards,” Shimoni told Neve Ilan at a special meeting to announce the closing. “Once I found out how dangerous the exposure is, I made up my mind: children cannot learn in these classrooms until the problem is solved.”
The students of Neve Ilan will temporarily be housed in a community center until a more permanent solution can be found that meets with new Environmental Protection Ministry regulations that limit children to a 4 mJ (millijoule) exposure of radiation over 24 hours. Shimoni told the parents that finding a resolution to the problem will be a top priority for the municipality.