Some 100 Beit Shemesh residents protested on Sunday against the municipality's plan to open four classes for ultra-Orthodox students at the secular "Languages and Cultures" school.
The demonstrators, mostly students who attend the school, called on Mayor Moshe Abutboul to resign and waved signs reading, "This isn't Bnei Brak" and "Beit Shemesh is not a haredi city."
Bnei Brak is a predominantly ultra-Orthodox city located near Tel Aviv.
According to resident Talia Avian, the mayor threatened to cut the school's transportation budget should it refuse to open the haredi classes.
"He told the principal and the parents that if they ignored his decision the coming year would be the school's last," she said.
Avian dismissed the mayor's claims that the school is located in the heart of a haredi neighborhood. "The Ramat Beit Shemesh A neighborhood is not ultra-Orthodox; it is made up predominantly of a secular and national religious population," she said.
"This is part of a plan to turn Beit Shemesh into the most haredi city in Israel."
Tatyana Iluz said, "In addition to all the anxiety surrounding a child's first day in school – I now learn that he will be studying near classes with students who belong to the Gur hasidic sect.
"We demand a long-term solution. The school should not be closed. I want my son to finish elementary school there," she said.
"The haredi and secular populations don't get along. Look at what is happening in Jerusalem, where the recent haredi protests may lead to civil war."
The City of Beit Shemesh said in response that the school has the capacity to house 480 students, but only 180 are registered there. Some 75% of the students attending "Languages and Cultures" are not residents of the neighborhood, which is religious in character.
"The city's haredi community suffers from a shortage of 250 classes; many ultra-Orthodox children are currently taught in caravans or rented apartments under inhumane and hazardous conditions," said the municipality.