J'lem: Haredim 'conquer' Histadrut stronghold - Israel News, Ynetnews

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Histadrut building in Jerusalem Photo: Gil Yohanan
Histadrut building in Jerusalem Photo: Gil Yohanan

J'lem: Haredim 'conquer' Histadrut stronghold

Parts of Histadrut building, throwback to Mapai past in city, recently rented out to haredi girls' seminar. Former member of Knesset Uzi Baram, whose father was Histadrut director in city: 'Over the years, building became secular reserve in very haredi area'

Neta Sela
Published: 01.15.07, 20:32 / Israel News

Under the banner "Blessed be He who uprooted idol worship from our land," a haredi journal over the weekend praised the great victory of the Old Yishuv in Jerusalem over the harbingers of socialism in Israel, namely that three floors of the Histadrut building in Jerusalem were rented out to the girls' seminar Mishkan Sarah, in which 350 haredi girls study.


The Histadrut building on 17 Strauss Street in Jerusalem has for many years been considered a symbol of the strength of the Mapai presence in Jerusalem.


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Or, as the haredi journal put it: "The great house… which was essentially intended to form a wall against the spread of the haredi public and to be an assembly place for all kinds of manifestations of destruction and uncleanliness, may such a thing never befall us, will from now on become and be used as a new seat for this pedigreed and splendid seminar."


The spot where the building is situated represents essentially the last secular stronghold in the area. Histadrut Jerusalem District Chairman Danny Ben-Sheetrit made it clear that the rental agreement only includes part of the section in which the Mitchel movie theatre was in the past, which, according to him, "has stood empty for dozens of years already."


Ben-Sheetrit added that the section in which the Hisadrut offices are located today are not included in the rental agreement.


Other secular strongholds in the area of historical and sentimental value that have recently gone haredi include Edison Movie Theatre, which was purchased by Satmar haredim, and Lemel School, which is currently being used as a Talmud-Torah by the Radzin hassidim.


The Tnuva compound was also sold to hassidic investors and will be turned into a residential building project in coming years.


Political considerations for building location

The Histadrut building moved to Strauss Street at the beginning of the 1950s from Histadrut Street, in the center of the city. In a conversation with Ynet, former member of Knesset Uzi Baram said that his father, Moshe Baram, who served as secretary of the Jerusalem workers' council, was among those who decided to build the Histadrut building on Strauss Street.


Baram noted that the location of the building was chosen out of political considerations.


"They were very concerned during that time that Jaffa Street would be a border between two parts of Jerusalem, the northern part being the religious part, and the southern part being the secular part.


"Therefore, already then, he thought it proper to build the Histadrut building on Strauss in order to establish the fact that Jerusalem wasn't divided," said Baram.


Baram recalled that there was a soccer stadium for the HaPoel Jerusalem team as well as the Mitchell Movie Theatre.


The May Day parade that started from the building even passed through the Meah Sha'arim, but "little by little, the Histadrut building became a secular reserve in the heart of a very haredi area," according to Baram.


Baram believes that the rental agreement with Mishkan Sarah was signed after most of the Histadrut activity in the building was transferred to a different locations and "the entire reason for the Histadrut building to be located there no longer exists to a certain degree."


"With the perspective of many years," admitted Baram, "the effort my father made didn't succeed. The step that was taken didn't succeed in stemming the tide. Jerusalem has undergone a demographic revolution."


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