THE LIGHTS surrounding the Old City are turned off 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Today we celebrate Jerusalem Day, our capital city’s special holiday. I believe
it is worth pausing and reassessing the value we place on this unique day,
marking as it does the reunification of Jerusalem, the point in time when we
stopped being an intimate and cozy urban unit and became instead a metropolitan
hub. Now, 46 years later, not only has an entire generation grown up that has
never known the city divided, but also the time has surely come to embrace a
worthy vision for our beloved capital, of a green and sustainable city with an
equitable public domain.
Jerusalem residents from all sectors are willing
to endorse such a vision, fully appreciating that not only is it physically
impossible to divide the city up in an exercise that entails complete disruption
of our urban systems, but also that a divided city cannot be managed in a
logical or equitable way. The time has indeed come for us Jerusalemites to take
pride in the relative peace and harmony that prevail throughout the
ancient-modern city we share.
It is not yet two weeks since Earth Day was
marked all round the country by a great many events, from the government to the
local level. This included a public recognition of “Earth Hour,” with a symbolic
turning off of lights for one hour of energy saving. In Jerusalem, “The First
international Jerusalem Symposium on Green and Accessible Pilgrimage” took up
the entire week.
The symposium drew participants from pilgrim cities
worldwide, such as Santiago de Compostela (Spain), Matale (Sri Lanka),
Etchmiadzin (Armenia), Mexico City, and in Israel, such as Haifa, Safed,
Beersheba and others, not to mention faith communities, academics, business
entrepreneurs and NGOs.
The symposium provided a platform to showcase
sustainable planning projects in Jerusalem, from the Gazelle Valley to the
Kidron Basin, and to demonstrate the equity of the public domain shared by all
sectors of the city. The “Jerusalem Framework Statement” endorsed by all the
delegates at the symposium does not relate specifically to Jerusalem, other than
as the city where it was written, and yet poses an entirely relevant vision for
It was agreed that the three guiding principles for equity in
the public domain are openness, understanding and mutual respect. If the
development procedures of the city integrate these planning principles, there is
a good chance that the planning product will be equitable and will serve all the
sectors in the city, including the essential component of access to public
facilities for the disabled.
The “Green Pilgrim Jerusalem” team that
leads this vision for Jerusalem is investing a lot of effort in fostering a
positive and reciprocal relationship between the local communities of Jerusalem
and the rapidly increasing number of pilgrims and cultural tourists who visit
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According to this approach our visitors can benefit a lot from
integrating in their stay experiences, which foster respect for the natural,
spiritual and built heritage of Jerusalem.
In short, as we celebrate
Jerusalem Day, I call on all of us to who hold the city dear, to put aside the
never ending and useless arguments about the “status” of Jerusalem, and instead
to work together to ensure that the three principles of openness, understanding
and respect serve as common guidelines both in the management of the city and in
the conduct of our daily lives.
The writer is a member of the Jerusalem
City Council and a deputy mayor of Jerusalem.
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