Pedestrians and cyclists will soon be able to reach the north Tel Aviv beachfront by crossing a 160-meter-long bridge currently being built over the ponds at the Reading power station, reports www.local.co.il. The city and the Israel Electric Corporation are building the 5.2-meter-wide steel pedestrian bridge, which will lead to a new beach park and nature reserve being planned for the area. The park will contain pedestrian paths stretching along the length of the beach.
According to the report, the bridge will enable pedestrians and cyclists to cross over the power station's cooling ponds to the new, 60-dunam nature park to be built on the power station's land adjoining the Tel Baruch beach. The report said the new park aims to bring about a return of the natural vegetation and wildlife that have been disappearing from the area. It said the limitations posed by the power station and by nearby infrastructure such as the Sde Dov airfield and the natural gas line have been incorporated into the plans. The report said the IEC is funding 60 percent of the NIS 12 million cost of the project, while the city of Tel Aviv-Jaffa is funding the remaining 40%. The park is slated for completion in mid-2010.
Councilor calls for South TA academic institute
Tel Aviv city councilor Arnon Giladi is calling on the Education Ministry to create an institute of higher education in the south of Tel Aviv, reports www.mynet.co.il. Giladi says an institute of tertiary education would bring students and businesses that serve students to the under-privileged area, and would help energize its economy.
According to the report, Giladi wrote to Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar recently to urge him to establish a tertiary institution in south Tel Aviv. Giladi said the north has the University of Tel Aviv and the teacher-training college Seminar Hakibbutzim, and the minister could either establish a new institution or move an existing one to the south.
"An academic institute will create a flow of students, and some of them will even come to live nearby and will bring a young spirit with them to the area," Giladi wrote. "The students constitute a consumer power that will bring in its footsteps many businesses and service providers." No response to the proposal was reported.
Residents to pay half-price at Habima car park
After numerous discussions and debates, the municipal company responsible for the new Habima Theater underground car park has agreed to give Tel Aviv residents a discount of 50 percent off the parking fees, reports www.nrg.co.il. This means that when the car park opens in about three months, Tel Aviv residents will pay NIS 6 instead of NIS 12 per hour for parking during the day, or a one-off fee of NIS 12 instead of NIS 24 after 7 pm.
The seven-story, 1,500-space car park is being built underground next to the national theater, which is undergoing extensive renovations. The car park has already sparked criticism from surrounding residents, who say the extra vehicles coming into the area will create even more traffic congestion than currently exists. The report said the Ahuzat Hanof municipal company, which is responsible for the construction and operation of the car park, initially did not want to give Tel Aviv residents a discount on parking fees because of the high costs of constructing the car park, but "after numerous discussions and dilemmas," it has now relented.
Mosquito warnings carry a sting
As if Israelis don't have enough to worry about with swine flu spreading steadily around the country, the Ministry for Environmental Protection has announced a list of cities badly afflicted by Asian tiger mosquitoes, reports www.local.co.il. The list includes all the cities in the Sharon area, and the ministry is calling on all local authorities to act immediately to locate mosquito populations and spray them with pesticides, as well as to take preventive measures such as removing standing pools of water.
According to the report, the ministry ranks 46 cities as being at a "Stage Two" level of affliction, defined as "bad but with improvement possible." The report said the cities in this category include Herzliya, Ramat Hasharon, Ra'anana, Kfar Saba and Hod Hasharon. It said the ranking indicates either that the level of infestation is relatively low but the local authority has not made appropriate preparations to deal with it, or that the authority has begun to deal with it but the level of infestation is high. In both cases further action is needed to improve the situation.
The report said that Asian tiger mosquitoes, a small species with black and white stripes on their bodies, are active during the day and are common around gardens, cemeteries and piles of tires, and have recently been seen in plant nurseries. The insects cause painful stings, as well as carrying diseases such as West Nile fever and Dengue fever. Europe has recently seen an outbreak of the tropical disease Chikungunya fever because of Asian tiger mosquitoes.
The report said that several cities further north, including Nahariya, Hadera, Kiryat Bialik and Kiryat Ata, have been placed in the worst afflicted category, "Stage Three," indicating that they are losing the battle to contain the insects. A ministry spokesman said that to arrive at a "Stage One" or "Zero" rating, an authority had to locate mosquito habitats and carry out sprayings, as well as taking preventive steps such as emptying jars of water left in cemeteries, removing and recycling old tires, and isolating afflicted plant nurseries to prevent plants on which mosquito eggs have been laid from being sold. The ministry said it would advise local authorities on the measures they should take, and warned that if action was not taken immediately, the problem would only grow.
Netanya comptroller lashes parking authority
Netanya City Comptroller Dov Katz has issued his annual report for 2008, and has sharply criticized the functioning of the city's parking authority, reports www.nrg.co.il. The comptroller said the city had lost an estimated NIS 2.2 million from unpaid parking fines by the middle of 2007 because the authority did not issue proper notices to offenders, and called for authority head Yossi Solomon to be replaced.
According to the report, the comptroller detailed faults in a number of areas, including the existence of some 600 dangerous buildings in the city which a comptroller's report back in 2002 said had to be addressed. The latest report said nothing had yet been done about those buildings. The 800-page report also criticized a lack of communication between departments on emergency measures at schools, saying that fire-fighters' recommendations were often not acted upon because of a lack of coordination with the municipal education and security departments. The report recommended that the municipal departments work with fire-fighting services to coordinate visits to schools, note recommendations and follow up the correction of faults.
But Katz reserved his harshest criticism for the municipal parking authority, saying there were "actual and central" defects in its functioning, including a lack of any structured schedule for the sending of parking notices. The report said that not only had the city lost millions of shekels because of this, but between 2004 and 2006 it had failed to return a total of NIS 123,000 to residents whose fines had been cancelled.
The report said no official response had been received from Solomon. But Mayor Miriam Fierberg-Ikar responded that the comptroller's report had said "harsh things" about the management of the parking authority, including making personal recommendations. She said the city would act in accordance with its agreements and with the recommendations of its scrutiny committee. A scrutiny committee spokesman said the city should consider retaking control of all its parking functions, as had been the case in the past and as was done in many other cities.
Short tempers cut council session short
Kfar Saba's city council returned from its summer break last week only to prove that the vacation had done nothing to soothe councilors' frayed tempers, reports www.nrg.co.il. The first council meeting after the summer recess erupted with shouts and insults soon after it began, and lasted for only 20 minutes before Mayor Yehuda Ben Hamo called an abrupt end to the meeting and closed it down.
According to the report, the always tense council exploded after Ben Hamo opened the meeting by saying that the head of the education department would begin the session with a report on the beginning of the school year. Opposition councilors, who had planned to discuss the contentious expansion of the Caniel tin factory in the city, attacked Ben Hamo and said he was changing the schedule illegally and with the intention of "keeping mouths shut" on other issues. Ben Hamo then put the change in schedule to a vote, which his ruling coalition won. The report said this aroused the ire of the opposition councilors, led by the Greens' Guy Ben Gal and Itai Ganel, even further, and a long and furious volley of shouts and insults ensued. Eventually, Ben Hamo announced that he was ending the council meeting, just 20 minutes after it began.
The report said that the following day both sides blamed each other, with the mayor's spokesman saying the opposition councilors had behaved "shamefully and disgustingly," disrupting the council meeting unrestrainedly and throwing insults at the mayor and coalition councilors. The spokesman said the opposition members had harmed the interests of the public by forcing the mayor to end the meeting early and preventing other matters from being heard.
But Ben Gal said it was "ridiculous" to blame the opposition, saying that Ben Hamo had thumbed his nose at the law and changed the rules to suit himself. Ben Gal said the mayor had acted contemptuously towards the council, and that he "needs to understand that every time he acts against the law and personally insults councilors, council meetings will not take place in an orderly way."
New Even Yehuda neighborhood gets OK
The Interior Ministry has given final approval for the construction of the so-called "Diplomats' Neighborhood" in Even Yehuda, south of Netanya, reports www.mynet.co.il. The new neighborhood, which will be built next to the American School, will contain some 400 residential units, most of them private houses with gardens. A commercial center and a sport and leisure center are also being planned for the neighborhood.
According to the report, local real estate agents say they expect strong demand for the neighborhood because of its location and amenities, especially among diplomats and others whose children attend the American School. The report said work on the new neighborhood would begin within a few months.
Ra'anana special-needs club first of its kind
The city of Ra'anana has inaugurated a new community center that will offer a range of activities for a variety of residents, including the city's first club for special-needs children and their parents, reports www.mynet.co.il. Mayor Nahum Hofree officially inaugurated the new center, which is located on the premises of the former Tohelet school in Rehov Ostrovsky, and said it was part of the expanding range of resources and services offered by the city for the benefit of residents.
According to the report, the center will offer activities ranging from parent-and-baby enrichment sessions to nature studies and dance lessons for children to informal educational courses for adults. The special-needs club, which has been established by the city in conjunction with parents, will provide activities for special-needs children after school hours, as well as lectures for their parents.
Stadium plans kick off in Haifa
Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav has signed an agreement with businessman Idan Ofer for the construction of the new Haifa municipal sports stadium, reports www.local.co.il. The agreement will see Ofer's father, tycoon Sammy Ofer, donating $20 million for the construction of the stadium, which will be named in his honor. The stadium will be built on 145 dunams of land allocated by the city.
According to the report, the Haifa Economic Company will build the project through a specially created subsidiary company, the International Stadium Company. The report said the new stadium was being designed by the KSS international architectural firm in conjunction with two Israeli architects to meet international standards and to cater for international champions' league games. It said the stadium would contain 30,000 roofed seats for spectators, 1,500 parking spaces, several VIP clubs, an upmarket restaurant, a media area containing 40 broadcasting posts for radio and television and 100 seats for the press, and other amenities. At a later stage a 200-room hotel and other facilities will be built. No dates for the start or the completion of the project were reported.
Cemetery neglect raises fury
Haifa's oldest Jewish cemetery has fallen into such a state of disrepair and neglect that residents say that any other country meting out the same treatment to its cemeteries would be accused of anti-Semitism, reports www.mynet.co.il. But moves to clean up and rehabilitate the historic cemetery may be afoot after representatives of the city and of the Ministry for Religious Services visited the site recently.
According to the report, the old cemetery in Rehov Yafo was used for burials between 1860 and 1935, and contains the graves of several well-known rabbis and of victims of the 1929 Arab riots, as well as of First Zionist Congress delegate and one of Haifa's founders Shmuel Yosef Pevzner and his wife Leah, the daughter of Hebrew language pioneer Ahad Ha'am. The report said the cemetery is surrounded by a high wall and contains an impressive entrance, hiding its condition from the view of passersby. But once inside, the neglect immediately becomes obvious: the gravestones are covered by weeds and garbage, including old doors, windows and other construction waste, and there are no clear paths through the overgrowth, forcing visitors to trample over graves. The report said that several weeks ago visitors discovered that vandals had desecrated the cemetery, with holy books thrown on the ground, the dividing wall between the men's and the women's sections torn out, and the charity box stolen. One Haifa resident, whose father is buried in the cemetery, said the neglect and vandalism would be regarded as anti-Semitic in any other country.
"This cemetery might be closed, but it can't be abandoned, with overgrown vegetation, thorns and dirt in every corner â€¦ A cemetery in this condition in any other place in the world would arouse cries of racism and anti-Semitism," the man said.
The report said that representatives from the city and from the Ministry for Religious Services toured the cemetery recently along with a representative from a local non-profit organization that has been sending volunteers in to try to clean the cemetery. After the visit, both authorities noted in an internal document that because the cemetery was long disused no authority felt responsible for looking after it. The document said the shrubs throughout the cemetery had to be trimmed and the scrub removed, garbage and weeds had to be cleared away, and gravestones had to be exposed, cleaned, marked and preserved. The document said the ministry would prepare a plan to rehabilitate the cemetery, and in the meantime the city would begin organizing the cleaning of the site. A municipal spokesman later confirmed that the city would clean up the overgrowth, after which the ministry, which is responsible for the maintenance of all cemeteries in Israel, would begin working on a rehabilitation plan.
Ashdod port company makes waves in business rankings
The Ashdod Port Company has received the highest ranking of any port company in Israel by two separate business information firms, reports www.local.co.il. The BDI Code and Dun and Bradstreet each gave the Ashdod Port Company high marks after weighing up a list of factors that included the range of the company's activities, its profitability, its managerial system, its level of risk, its payment ethos and the level of satisfaction of its workers.
According to the report, BDI placed the Ashdod Port Company first among Israeli ports and seventh among Israeli infrastructure companies overall in its annual BDI Code rankings, while Dun and Bradstreet's annual listing of the top 100 industry and services companies in Israel put the Ashdod port company in 49th place, the highest ranking of any Israeli port company. The report said the Ashdod Port Company had a wide range of services for customers as well as extensive and advanced infrastructure, including the first computerized container port in Israel, and that it is currently building an automated truck entrance that is expected to begin operating in 2010.
A company spokesman welcomed the rankings and said the company expected to invest NIS 700 million over the next four years in equipment and infrastructure. The spokesman said the company would do everything possible to rise even higher in the rankings next year.
NII accused of making disabled lives difficult
Beersheba city councilor and head of the national organization for victims of work accidents Yossi Dadush has launched an attack on the city's National Insurance Institute for making the lives of the disabled more difficult, reports www.mynet.co.il. Dadush told a city council meeting that the institute's splitting of its functions into several different buildings in Beersheba was causing unnecessary harm and mental anguish to the public, and especially to the disabled.
According to the report, in January 2008 the National Insurance Institute decided to tear down its central building in the city and build a new one. The report said it was still not clear when construction work on the new building would even begin. But in the meantime, Dadush said the institute was acting out of several different buildings, forcing Beersheba residents to travel between buildings if they needed more than one service, and to wait in long queues at each site.
"This split is causing damage and mental anguish to the public," Dadush said. "City management must act to solve this problem. This cannot continue as it is." No response to Dadush's demand was reported.