Municipal reshuffle completed
This week, the quiet reorganization of the municipality led by Mayor Nir Barkat has reached its final stage. On Sunday, the municipality’s spokesman announced that Danny Bar-Giora, who headed the High School for the Arts in the city for more than 11 years, has been appointed head of the Education Department. Bar-Giora, who has a master’s degree in mathematics and computer sciences, stood at the head of the Ofek Hadash (New Horizon) elementary-school reform program and was considered to be the mayor’s favorite for the task. With this, seen as the last step in his program, Barkat has transformed the structure of the municipality. Instead of the former 29 departments, this city will now be managed by only seven, each covering a wider range of domains, and all of them headed by the director-general and supervised by the chief of staff.

If this new structure sounds a lot like a well-organized hi-tech company, it is no accident. That is exactly what the mayor had in mind. What remains to be seen is if this new approach to public affairs management will bear fruit, or in this case, better services for the residents of Jerusalem.

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Turning over a new leaf
The municipality installed recycling bins for paper this week. The new bins, which look different from the familiar garbage bins, are placed in the usual garbage locations, and are the first step in a wider plan by the municipality to encourage residents to participate in large-scale recycling activity. For the moment, the new bins can be found in only three neighborhoods: Ramat Rahel, Arnona Hatzeira (including a part of Derech Hebron) and Beit Hakerem. To find out when the bins will be emptied, residents can call 653-5944 for information in Hebrew.

The stroller parade
Some 200 young parents with toddlers picketed on Rehov Emek Refaim last Friday, holding placards, balloons and whistles, calling for better support from the municipality towards the needs of young couples and families. The colorful parade (which had been canceled the week before because of the rain) was organized by the Yerushalmim movement, represented on the city council by its leader, Rahel Azaria.

Azaria, who has already succeeded in implementing her plan to add an extra month to the kindergarten curriculum (“the 11th month”) aimed at helping young parents to work normally at least one more month in the summer, believes that supporting young families is the key to enlarging the productive population of the city. At the demonstration, one of the placards read: “Mom, Dad, I want to stay in Jerusalem,” implying that people do want to stay here, but they just need a better structure adapted to their needs – such as education, affordable housing and more job opportunities.

A mother’s pride
Prof. Yehuda Adler, the man who dramatically changed the image of Misgav Ladach Hospital from a somewhat obscure maternity clinic to a small but very modern local hospital specializing in women’s health and cardiac care, has been appointed to the board of directors of the new medical school planned to open in Safed. Adler, a graduate of the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Medicine, is considered one of the country’s leading experts in cardiology and cardiac rehabilitation.

Under his baton, the little hospital in Katamon, which for years had specialized in alternative childbirth methods, has become a leading facility specializing in preventive medicine in less than a year, working with all the health funds and considered one of the best in the field.

Graffiti, haredi style
The walls in Mea She’arim are sometimes much more than just walls. Most of us are familiar with the pashkevilim (billboards) that display a certain dramatic mixture of religious and vernacular language to describe the spiritual leaders’ moods and instructions. Recently, residents of the neighborhood have added graffiti to the mix, using spray paint to announce their feelings about current issues. One of the harshest seen recently says “Zionists = murderers.” Needless to say, this caused outraged among the general public. For some unknown reason, the graffiti was not sprayed on the walls but on electrical and telecommunication boxes. Whether it is because there was no use of the regular format – the pashkevilim – or some other reason, a source from the extremist Eda Haredit said that “Clearly, this does not come from us. We do not stand behind this. Who knows, it could even be a provocation from the establishment.”

Whether the accusations against Zionism come from within the haredi community or not, one thing is sure: The hard line, including gender separation, is rapidly advancing. Last week, large signs indicating separate places for men and women to walk in the streets of Geula and Mea She’arim appeared. So far, no official from the haredi community has responded to this escalation of gender segregation.

Zaka anniversary
Next week, Zaka (Disaster Victims Identification) and its founder, Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, will mark 20 years of the creation of the organization that has become part of our worst moments, both in Jerusalem and around the country. The organization, based solely on volunteer work, was created following the July 1989 terrorist attack, when a terrorist caused an Egged bus to roll over a cliff on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, killing 16 people and wounding more than 30. Over the years, Meshi-Zahav, has shifted from his strict haredi attitude against the State of Israel and Zionism and has adopted a much softer position, including participating in the official Independence Day ceremony in 2002.

The highlight of the event, a special evening scheduled for next week, will take place in Tel Aviv at the Mann Auditorium, a stronghold of Tel Avivian secularism where, for the occasion, the public will be gender segregated.
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