In a clear message to municipal and educational authorities, the Supreme Court in August ordered a solution to environmental conditions threatening the health of 900 children at an elementary school operating in an East Jerusalem industrial zone. A recent check by IUED confirmed that the adjoining metals factory is operating only in shifts outside of the school day. The factory will be moving to new premises soon, with a target date of the end of February. IUED will continue to monitor developments to ensure that the court's decision is implemented in full.
The court ruled that the City of Jerusalem and the Education Ministry must find an immediate solution to environmental problems threatening the health of 800 pupils at the Shuafat elementary school in East Jerusalem. The court was responding to an appeal (Supreme Court #5634/09) filed by parents of the children, IUED and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
The school was opened a year ago at the heart of the East Jerusalem industrial area; despite its close proximity to a metals casting factory, the municipality renovated the building as a school. Children have suffered dizziness, headaches and other health complaints yet authorities failed to act, claiming that the metals factory was operating legally and in accordance with environmental standards within its business license.
Children are vulnerable to pollution
Dr. Arye Wanger, IUED’s air pollution specialist, told the court that pollution from the factory was impacting on the health of the children. He noted that the environmental standard was not intended for factories operating adjacent to institutions housing vulnerable populations like young children. Representatives of the Ministry for Environmental Protection confirmed that even though the factory was in accordance with standards, environmental conditions at the site were not appropriate for a school.
The court agrees: schools and factories should be separated
The judges accepted the petitioners’ position, noting in their decision that the factory’s compliance with the law was not sufficient justification for operating a school in an adjacent building, and that the authorities were remiss in opening a school within a hazardous zone.
Because the municipality was unable to find alternative premises for the school before opening of the school year, the factory must suspend its operations during the school day until further notice. It is expected that the factory will move to new premises within a few weeks.