The Hebrew University of Jerusalem cancelled a tender for the purchase of two of its buildings, that currently serve as student dorms on Stern Street. The buildings have recently been at the center of a struggle between the ultra-Orthodox and secular residents over the neighborhood's character.
Some eight acquisition groups, including one secular group from the New Spirit students' organization and seven ultra-Orthodox groups placed their bids for the structures, that include 64 housing units. Now, it seems the buildings will continue to serve as dorms.
A letter sent on Monday by the Hebrew University Assets Ltd, the university's subsidiary that issued the tender, to attorney Omer Gadish who represents New Spirit, read, "I hereby declare that the Hebrew University has decided to cancel its tender for the matter in question. In light of this, the guarantees that you presented will be returned to you by personal delivery."
One of the buildings offered for sale (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
The buildings in question have been at the center of a struggle over the neighborhood's character in recent months. More and more haredim have been moving to the Kiryat Yovel neighborhood from nearby areas in the past few years, due partially to its comfortable prices.
The change in demographics has alarmed the secular residents, who fear the neighborhood will become ultra-Orthodox and affect their lifestyle.
Haredim: This is outrageous
The seculars view the withdrawal of the tender as a victory, since the students living in the dorms are mainly secular. Yakir Segev, who manages the municipality's youth portfolio and led the New Spirit's secular group in its bid to purchase the dorms, said this was a victory for the seculars.
"The sale of the university buildings to haredim was prevented. The groups that bid in the tender were mainly ultra-Orthodox and they bid very high prices, including a group that guaranteed to pay 10% more than the highest bid," he said.
"The New Spirit group was poorer and put a lot of pressure on the university to sell the property to its graduates. For us, this is a battle in which we won a very important victory for the young community in the city," he added.
Meanwhile, the decision left the ultra-Orthodox residents enraged, and attorney Eklana Holzer, who represents the haredim of Kiryat Yovel told Ynet, "The Hebrew University is influenced by the current media frenzy regarding the religious and ultra-Orthodox communities in the city of Jerusalem.
"This is outrageous. According to the rules of the game in the State of Israel in any tender, the highest bidder wins, regardless of them being religious or secular, and this is how it was supposed to go this time as well.
"The university, or whoever decided on its behalf to withdraw the tender broke the rules, and in my humble opinion conducted themselves in an unacceptable manner," the lawyer said.