Jlem welcome sign.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The entrance to Jerusalem is getting a multi-million shekel municipal face-lift.
That's the news coming out of city hall after a previous controversial city project carried out at the entrance to the capital was met with widespread criticism and condemnation, crossing political lines.
Two years later, the city has decided to invest an additional NIS 10 million for an upgrade.
Over the past couple of weeks, municipal bulldozers have been at work at the city's main entrance, destroying the grounds of the infamous hilltop surrounded by synthetic grass and the word "welcome" in Hebrew.
The project, along with a towering 25-meter clock informing motorists of when Shabbat begins and ends each week, was the crux of the city's previous NIS 2m. "gardening and lighting" project for the capital's western entrance.
"Welcome to a blunder," screamed a recent headline in the Jerusalem weekly Yediot Yerushalayim.
"Two years ago, the mayor took money that was meant for other projects in the city, claiming that it was 'essential' to invest in this project. Now they realize that the project was not done well, and they are changing it again," said Zvi Raviv, the former director of the New Jerusalem Foundation, a Jerusalem-based philanthropic organization. "You cannot waste public funds in such a manner every two years."
According to the new project, a wall made up of Jerusalem stone will replace the synthetic grass and cement around the welcome sign, while trees and plants will be placed around it next year after the end of the shmita (sabbatical) year.
On Tuesday, the Jerusalem Municipality referred a query on the issue to its sister-company, the Moriah construction company, which is carrying out the work.
Moriah spokesman Yehoshua Mor-Yosef said Tuesday that the work under way was part of a large project meant to upgrade the entrance to the city. He had no further details about the specifics of the work.
Jerusalem opposition leader Nir Barkat blasted the project as superficial "makeup" that, he said, fails to plaster over the city's real problems.
"The time has come to invest the public coffers of Israel's poorest city in strengthening the city, stopping the ongoing emigration of young city residents, and in education," he said. "The public is fed up with projects that try to cover up the city's real problems with makeup and that are carried out like in Chelm" - a reference to the town of fools in Jewish folklore.
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