To be a Jerusalemite is to be proud

The Holy City has seen some significant changes over the past two years; there are many reasons to celebrate today.

By
May 31, 2011 23:25
4 minute read.
Nir Barkat points out the J'lem marathon route.

nir barkat_58. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

 
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Jerusalem Day has always been a day of celebration for me. It’s a day that reminds me time and again just how special this city is and how lucky we are to live in it. It’s a city full of almost impossible contradictions that make it the most unique in the world.

Two years have passed since I took office as mayor of this city, and my belief in Jerusalem has only strengthened.

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It is on a path to success. The spirit of change has attracted masses of people, tourists and visitors of all ages, more so than ever before. No less important is the residents’ improved quality of life.

To be a Jerusalemite is to be proud.

There is a clear, organized vision for the city that is becoming reality. We have set crucial goals for the future, we have planted seeds of change and we are starting to see the fruits already; the improvement to our daily lives in almost every aspect.

Jerusalem is now once again the cultural capital of the State of Israel. We have doubled the budget of over 60 cultural centers that adorn this city and have significantly increased the number of events and shows, which attract many visitors from Israel and abroad. There is a high concentration of quality art schools here, and we encourage art students to contribute to the city, providing them with work and exhibition rooms.

A thriving city, especially one as large as Jerusalem, also needs a strong, stable economy. We set goals to develop that front and chose a number of fields in which Jerusalem has a competitive advantage. In the tourism department, for example, we see a tremendous improvement, as hotel rooms here are often at full capacity. The hotel industry has grown by 10 percent, and most importantly, we saw a new record of tourists this year. We are likely to see more growth in the years to come.

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In order to encourage business growth, we have made the city more inviting for entrepreneurs and business owners.

There has been an organizational and perceptual change within the municipal system and a decrease in bureaucratic processes. Following lengthy efforts on our part, Jerusalem was recognized this year as a “National Priority District A” for capital investment purposes, which makes it an attractive venue for investors. As a result, we saw a 30% increase in requests for business licenses.

IN THE educational sector, we have also had major achievements. The educational sector is what led me into public service.

Education breaks down barriers and helps surmount obstacles. It can also bring communities and groups closer together. I see Jerusalem as excelling in education; it is a city that offers real equal opportunity to students and enables each student to reach his or her potential, to advance and to grow. We have invested millions in the city’s educational programs and already see unprecedented results; more and more students from the state-run schools and the national-religious schools now take their matriculation exams. We expect the number of students who do so to increase in the coming years.

Teachers are at the center of the education sector in Jerusalem, and investing in them is critical to our children’s future. We have several programs in place to attract young teachers and those who excel in education, and continue to develop our “A Computer for Every Teacher” program, which has already distributed some 2,400 laptops to teachers from 43 different schools.

But we can’t stop at that. Good education means good values. We make every effort to strengthen the bond between the formal education system and the informal one. We have seen a 17% increase in the sign-ups for Zionist youth movements, more proof that young people in our country are involved.

We have also focused on young families.

Along with cultural activities aimed at young families, we have significantly improved the preschool system. The program “The 11th Month,” which enables parents to send their kids to preschool during July at a discounted rate, has been expanded city-wide.

NO CITY has a future without municipal renewals. Our goal is to change the emigration balance, to attract more young people to Jerusalem and have them stay.

Student life in the city is blooming, and our efforts have made Jerusalem a thriving academic city.

Although there is a housing shortage on a national scale, Jerusalem was the first city to initiate and execute a comprehensive housing program. We have approved hundreds of housing units for young people in an effort to keep fighting for their rights to live in this city.

And finally, Jerusalem is on the verge of significant, exciting change. The light rail will accelerate growth in the city and will improve the lives of many Jerusalemites. It will also reinvigorate the city center, which is slowly but surely becoming an inviting, bustling venue again.

I have no doubt that our efforts on all these fronts will bring about significant economic growth and help reduce poverty in the city.

Jerusalem is lucky. It has residents who love it wholeheartedly and who wish it well. Jerusalemites are partners in taking the vision for the city forward. We can make the change from hope to reality The writer is mayor of Jerusalem.

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