‘Green’ thoughts on Jerusalem Day

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.

May 7, 2013 22:17
2 minute read.
THE LIGHTS surrounding the Old City are turned off

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 our city.

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 our city.

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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