Lights out for Calatrava

The lights have recently been shut off on the Bridge of Strings at the entrance of the city. After all the turmoil that surrounded the Calatrava bridge – among them the “Taliban” incident at which a dance troupe was forced to perform in head-to-toe robes at the opening ceremony – the bridge seems to be no longer an issue. It has cost the taxpayers around NIS 300 million, has raised the opposition of its neighbors (though their petition to the court was rejected), changed all the traffic around – for the worse – and was even threatened by the new mayor with dismantling.

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Months have passed, the bridge has even disappeared from the official stationery of the municipality and now its lights have been shut off. Officially, it was presented by the municipality as the result of a technical problem. But then it appeared that the “technical problem” was not an electrical difficulty but a financial one. The construction company, Remet, went bankrupt and doesn’t exist anymore. The new company that should take over is Moriah, which doesn’t want to be responsible for Remet’s unfulfilled obligations. So in the meantime, the lights – which cost a fortune – have been shut off.


In the name of the fallen

To bestow a name is an act of giving to someone we love, cherish or at least honor. That is the purpose behind the names we give to our streets and roads. They are our way, as residents – through our elected representatives – to declare that we honor the memory of a person or organization. For years, the city council’s street-naming committee has been the stage for intense internal struggles, some of them having reached the public arena. Among the most well-known issues is the failure of the municipality, since mayor Ehud Olmert’s days, to agree on how and where to honor the memory of one of its most outspoken council members, the late Ornan Yekutieli. Not that Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz or poet Yehuda Amichai have had more luck, and the list is not short.

True, some improvement has been brought to the procedures of the committee since the last elections (an independent consulting committee, not influenced by politicians close to the municipal committee), but one of its latest decisions has raised a lot of hackles. The committee has decided that it will not commemorate fallen soldiers anymore but leave that decision to the relevant department at the Defense Ministry. But it was discovered last week that no department at that ministry has the right to name streets. Says city council member Yair Gabai (Habayit Hayehudi), “The result will be that no fallen soldiers will ever be commemorated anymore, and that is shocking.”

A glimmer of hope, perhaps, is to be found in the decision of the consulting committee of the street-naming committee to have a special meeting in the near future to discuss the issue. 

More than a facade

As the director of the Jerusalem District Preservation Council, Itzik Shweky takes care of, runs, sweats, shouts and fights all the wars against any desecration of historical or architectural buildings that should be preserved. Shweky has experienced a few painful failures, though he says that considering his paltry budget, the overall score is not too bad. But last week, the usually gentle and genial man was incensed. According to him, the new master plan for Rehavia is nothing less than an outrage.

The plan, the first of a series of master plans of the city’s neighborhood renewal projects, includes 141 buildings and structures slated for preservation,  in addition to a huge plan that includes underground parking garages and a tunnel connecting Sacher Park to Mamilla. The plan, which the municipality submitted to the local planning and construction committee, allows for the complete preservation of only six buildings, while the rest will be permitted to add stories (up to six in some places) and preserve only the facades.


But there is at least one piece of good news. Residents will not be permitted to have private – or public – swimming pools in Rehavia. The legal procedure allows anyone who is opposed to the plan to present their opposition to the committee, and Shweky has already announced that he will do so in the name of the National Preservation Council.

Poets’ corner

A poetic encounter is scheduled for Tuesday at the Lev Ha’ir community center. Center director and poet Gilad Meiri will host Tel Aviv poet Ronny Somek for a talk on soccer, poetry, cinema and politics. PoetryPlace, Rehov Ohel Moshe 42, at 8:30 p.m. Info: 621-4783.
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