Why all the fuss?

Mayor Nir Barkat has been quoted in one of the Hebrew-language weeklies as saying that he cannot understand why the Americans got so upset over the construction in Ramat Shlomo. He is not alone: at Kikar Safra, no one seems to understand what really lit the diplomatic flames between Jerusalem and Washington.

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“This construction plan in Ramat Shlomo has already been running for almost three years,” deputy mayor and Finance Committee head David Hadari said this week. “Until this year I’ve been a member of the district committee. We have had plenty of meetings, all scheduled in advance, to promote this plan. Each meeting is dedicated to three to four related issues, and that’s how the work is done regarding all construction plans in any neighborhood.”


Even Meretz representatives do not really grasp what all the fuss is about.

Council member Meir Margalit admitted that it was self-evident that “neighborhoods constructed for Jews will stay on the Israeli side in any political solution, that the problem is regarding Jewish construction inside Arab neighborhoods, which does not apply in the case of Ramat Shlomo, a neighborhood that is not only for Jewish residents, but exclusively for haredim.”

Nevertheless, among city council members, this week has brought high levels of apprehension over the prime minister’s decision.

“Is he going to freeze the construction inside the [western portion of the] city as well, as a gesture toward the Americans?” asked one high-ranking official.

Caring for Beit Shemesh

A new Terem clinic opened recently in Beit Shemesh, providing the 72,000 residents with a modern urgent-care facility. The new center, situated in the BIG mall, is equipped with two digital X-ray machines, an ultrasound monitor and even a short-term hospitalization ward. The whole center was conceived and built to meet the special needs of the elderly and toddlers, and includes a large waiting room and several examination rooms fully equipped with all the modern medical devices needed to provide proper medical care.

Equality in Silwan?

In what seems a last resort to prevent the sealing of Beit Yehonatan in the Silwan neighborhood, the attorney representing the Jewish families living there sent a firm letter to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein, asking him to instruct city attorney Yossi Havilio to reconsider his position on the issue.

Attorney Yehiel Gutman, who represents the building’s residents, stated in his letter, a copy of which has reached In Jerusalem, that he recently discovered that the local affairs court, headed by Judge Tamar Nimrodi, has postponed a demolition order for an Arab resident in the same neighborhood – adjacent to Beit Yehonatan – to enable him to legalize it, as provided by municipal regulations. Gutman asked Weinstein how it was possible that Havilio agreed in one case to show patience and understanding, while refusing to grant the Jewish residents of Beit Yehonatan the same opportunity to retroactively legalize the building.

Gutman added that the mayor’s plan to allow all Silwan residents – Jews and Arabs alike – to legalize all the illegal construction carried out there over the years, in part by allowing building up to four stories high, should enable a quick legalizing of Beit Yehonatan.

Gutman said his clients “are prepared to seal or demolish themselves the three upper stories that do not fit in with the mayor’s plan.”

Channel 10 set to move

The Knesset Finance Committee this week approved a decision to order TV Channel 10 to move its offices and studios to Jerusalem. The decision followed a recommendation submitted on the issue by the Second Authority for TV and radio. The decision still has to be approved by the Knesset.

Over the next year it is estimated that 12.5% of the station’s staff will move to Jerusalem. Channel 10 will also have to broadcast at least 14 items per day from the studios in the capital. The company has been summoned by the Finance Committee to submit by next January a detailed plan of the move. By law, national TV channels have to broadcast from the capital.

Back in Egypt

For those among us who might feel some nostalgia for the evils of the ancient world, the Bible Lands Museum offers a unique opportunity: a special exhibition, for young and old alike, that presents scenes of our ancestors’ life back in Egypt. Beside a huge statue of Rameses and lots of Egyptian sarcophagi, the exhibit will display pottery used in mummifying ceremonies, hieroglyphs and a model of the Necropolis at Giza (including the pyramids).

The museum, which holds a large collection of Egyptian artifacts from the Pharaonic period, provides a close look at life in ancient times – both the Egyptians and our forefathers while still enslaved.

The museum will offer free guided tours for adults, as well as an event for the entire family focusing on the Four Questions of the Seder. The project has been made possible through a generous grant from Bank Hapoalim. For details call 561-1066 or visit www.blmj.org.

Image improvements?


It’s no secret that Mayor Barkat is encountering serious problems in his relations with the haredi community. Or perhaps we should say “communities,” since it is not, as some may think, a monolithic society. Until now, Barkat did what any other leader would do to open a door into a world he is unfamiliar with: he hired a consultant from the haredi community, Avraham Kroizer.

As some readers may recall, Kroizer himself ran into trouble over the parking lot his boss decided to open near the Old City: his peers didn’t like that instead of dissuading the mayor, he tried to placate both sides, a step many haredim saw as an act of betrayal.

Kroizer is still at his post, but last week a new player joined the team at the mayor’s office: Ya’acov Izak, whose task will be to find a way to publish the mayor’s activities in the haredi press. According to sources close to the Mayor’s Office, the idea is that once haredi residents read about the mayor’s efforts to improve their conditions and their quality of life in their own newspapers, they might refrain from demonstrating almost every weekend, a legal activity that is causing substantial damage to the city’s image.
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