Build, baby, build

After three years of battling to obtain a license to build a state-of-the-art model early childhood family activity center, the project has finally gotten a green light.

Kids at the kotel 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Kids at the kotel 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Bureaucracy is still alive and well in Israel. After three years of battling to obtain a license to build a state-of-the-art model early childhood family activity center, Shir Hadash, the congregation founded and headed by Rabbi Ian Pear and his wife, Rachel, has finally received the green light that will enable the advancement of the project. A festive ground-breaking ceremony three years ago led to high expectations that waned as prospective neighbors and petty bureaucrats kept putting obstacles in the way. The permit will enable Shir Hadash to expand its existing program and, in doing so, will encourage young families to remain in Jerusalem, where there will be an intriguing outlet for them and their children.
Their project will be one of many new construction projects in Jerusalem if the signs on buildings around the city are any indication. During his election campaign, Mayor Nir Barkat said that he wanted to speed up the process of granting building permits to developers, especially in the case of those buildings that needed to be reinforced against earthquakes. From the look of things, we’re going to be witnessing the rebuilding of Jerusalem, which means that anybody who hasn’t been here for a decade or more will not recognize the city, which in recent years has been changing rapidly and is going to change even faster with more and more high-rise buildings and less and less view of the Judean Desert.
Traffic in Jerusalem, particularly in the vicinity of Talbiyeh- Rehavia, was once again diverted, chaotic and congested this week due to the visit of French President Francois Hollande, who was accorded a welcome on the same scale as that given to US President Barack Obama, even to the extent of also planting a tree in the official President’s Residence as a symbol of the abiding friendship between France and Israel. However, Hollande planted a different type of tree than the one planted by Obama. While the US president planted a magnolia tree, the French president planted a cedar. Presumably when Pope Francis visits next year, he will plant yet a different tree, unless he follows in the footsteps of his predecessor Benedict XVI and plants an olive tree.
Inasmuch as adults caught in traffic during visits by a pope or US, Russian and French presidents suffer, the children designated to welcome the dignitaries suffer even more, despite the excitement of being chosen. Forty children aged six to 11 had been rehearsing at the presidential complex for Hollande’s arrival since before noon on Sunday. Thirty-seven of them were choristers from the French Chagall school in Jerusalem, while Eliah Levy, who welcomed Hollande in French, Avigail Basslaya, who welcomed him in Hebrew and presented Hollande’s partner, Valerie Trierweiler, with a bunch of red and white roses; and Lana Wattad, who welcomed him in Arabic and Hebrew, were respectively from the Maamad School in the Old City, the Frankel School and the Hand in Hand School.
The mothers of the three were hovering anxiously, proud of their offspring but fearful that they might get nervous. In fact, Levy was nervous, prompting Efrat Duvdevani, the president’s bureau chief, and Dalit Kool, who is in charge of special events, to make the three youngsters go through their lines again and again, which made Levy even more nervous until his mother and grandmother intervened – and then, with their moral support, he got it right.
The choir, waving Israeli and French flags, sang “Heiveinu Shalom Aleichem” over and over until Kool was satisfied.