Last year Arieh King, who is now running as chairman of the United Jerusalem
party together with Shmuel Shkedi in Jerusalem’s municipal election, stood with
me at Nof Tzion. He was talking with a friendly Arab neighbor when the man’s
daughter emerged from their house carrying two full garbage bags. She walked
past us casually and threw her garbage onto the side of the mountain.
more than 15 meters up the street sat the beautiful recycling bins and cages
erected by the City for the exclusive benefit of the Nof Tzion neighborhood. I
could not believe what I had seen.
Why were there no facilities for the
Arab home only 15 meters away? When I looked into the matter I discovered taxes
actually paid by Arab residents of east Jerusalem do not afford them a
proportional share of services. Then I wondered whether union labor, a function
of left-wing politics, had dictated conditions that encouraged a division of the
Having asked a lot of questions, I now believe garbage in east
Jerusalem is frequently not collected to promote the left-wing pro-Oslo
Arieh King and I met Nir Barkat and his then-fledgling team a few
years before he was elected mayor of Jerusalem. He had already been a council
member while waiting out his term before becoming a candidate for mayor. In the
last of three meetings before his election Nir and I sat at his home, where I
presented my thoughts on resolving the Old City’s congested pedestrian traffic,
as well as my ideas for parking and traffic exchange for taxis, busses and
Admittedly in those days the plan was a little rough,
however I wanted to plant in Nir’s mind the essential necessity of advancing
Jerusalem’s “Holy Basin” as its tourism epicenter, and to do that as a priority.
My goal was more people, more traffic, more hotels, more infrastructure, more
money and more exposure to pre-Second Temple Jewish history.
The plan I
was envisaging for tourism in the Old City expanded to include a more
comprehensive impact study, now available via
During Nir’s term as mayor, the British
advertising standards board and appeals tribunal banned Israel’s use of the
Kotel, the Western Wall, as a symbol of Israeli territory, designating it east
Jerusalem and off-limits to advertising as an Israeli attraction.
the Old City and the Kotel being Israel’s number one tourist destination,
participation by the municipality to improve conditions there is barely evident.
The area is often dirty, smelly, crowded and badly signposted, and unlicensed
vendors who operate within its confines are allowed to prey on unsuspecting
It holds enormous potential, rarely exploited by the city. For
example, Nir’s Formula One experiment emphasized the importance of external
entertainment to attract people.
However, the 10 days between Rosh
Hashanah and Yom Kippur are more significant, connected to Jewish tradition and
bring more visitors to the city than any other time of the year, yet the city
did very little to improve conditions or promote the Jewish
Drivers exiting the city will see Barkat’s banner hanging
larger than life on the Jerusalem Garden’s hotel, promoting his campaign for
re-election, and next to him stands challenger Moshe Lion.
In the sordid
world of politics and money, advertising will not confuse voters intent on
finding real solutions to the city’s problems.
These issues must
ultimately be addressed by improved labor relations, relaxed conditions and the
release of new land for construction of tens of thousands of dwellings and an
equal number of new hotel rooms.
Investors who presently prostitute
Jerusalem to sanctify their moral obligation to the city or those who don’t
participate, preferring the distance their charitable contributions afford them,
must be encouraged to change their ideals.
Whoever is elected mayor and
whichever party dominates the city list, it is time to motivate and encourage
the world’s greatest business minds to invest time and capital to participate in
making a profound and fundamental change to Jerusalem’s future so that it can
develop into the world-class city it is capable of being.
between Nir and Moshe is one of the most important in the history of the city
and people have to answer this very important question: Has there ever been a
city in history that has sustained its apparently divided constituents as well
in a divided state as in a united state? Logically Jerusalem or any other city
cannot sustain division; the mayor and the city must take responsibility for the
north, east, south and west parts of the city and must ensure all its people and
all its neighborhoods benefit from the city’s plans for the future.
representatives and the mayor must be willing to aggressively challenge the
influential Knesset’s Oslo status quo, while fairly providing services to all
the city’s constituents and enhancing Jewish roots and culture. I worked with
Arieh King for eight years; he knows how to concentrate on this agenda, and its
for that reason I am encouraged that his United Jerusalem Party will
significantly influence the future behavior of elected city council members to
the benefit of all the City’s constituents.
The author is a real estate
entrepreneur, investor, technologist and philanthropist. He is a major
benefactor and supporter of numerous charitable organizations and was awarded
the Yeshiva Center Leadership in Philanthropy. He has previously
developed substantial businesses in the computing, multimedia and Internet
industries. He sits on the board of various companies and has been a founding
investor in several successful startups, including Skype. More recently
he is responsible for Jerusalem 5800 planning and development, and also founded
the Jerusalem Development Fund.